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Primary care clinics “busy” since creation last month

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TATAMAGOUCHE – New primary access care clinics are going “quite well”, according to a representative with the Nova Scotia Health Authority.

Dr. Aaron Smith, co-medical executive director with Dr. Tanya Munroe for the Northern Zone, said the past five weeks with the three new primary care clinics have been busy.

“We really want to make sure residents of the Northern Zone are aware they exist,” he said, about the clinics set up for residents in Colchester, Cumberland, and Pictou counties, as well as East Hants. “We feel there are still a lot of people not accessing these clinics.”

The clinics, he says, were created in response to two things – the coronavirus pandemic and the large number of people in the area without a family practitioner.

“We are aware in the Northern Zone that there is a high number of people that still don’t have access to primary care, or aren’t having their primary care needs met without going into an emergency department,” he said.

The clinics, which are set to run until at least the end of June, are for those who are currently on the province’s Need a Family Practice Registry. Those who already have primary care providers are to continue to seek medical treatment and advice from those providers.

“We know there’s a high proportion of residents in the Northern Zone that are unattached to a family practice. Last month, we were at 9.7 per cent of the population in the Northern Zone without a doctor. We realized there was a big need, and that was compounded by the fact that people would seek their primary care through a walk-in clinic or emergency department.”

The clinics offer those on the registry an opportunity to call into the clinic with their issues or concerns. They are given an appointment for either the same day or next day, when they can talk to the primary care provider.

The clinics are for those concerns such as:

  • nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • back, joint, or muscle aches and pains
  • ear aches
  • mild headaches
  • eye irritation and infections
  • urinary problems
  • asthma (mild to moderate)
  • bites and stings
  • rashes, hives, and mild allergic reactions
  • cuts, scrapes, bruises, and other minor wounds
  • other minor conditions or minor injuries

“People can also call for any chronic disease, as well as therapeutic or prescription refills,” he said.

For those needing more serious attention, Smith said the primary care provider is able to triage the patient and make plans to have the patient seen in a timely and safe manner.

For residents in Pictou and Colchester counties, as well as the Municipality of East Hants, Smith says they can call their respective number and set up a virtual appointment with the provider.

Cumberland County, however, is a bit different.

“There’s one number to call, and then that request is distributed across the region to the primary care provider that’s geographically close to them,” said Smith. The Cumberland clinic is working with family doctors and nurse practitioners in Advocate, Amherst, Parrsboro, Pugwash, River Hebert, and Springhill.

“Since we’ve opened these clinics, it’s been busy. We’ve been able to maintain those same day or next day appointments,” said Smith.

“This is a great opportunity for people, but they need to know it exists. It’s a great option for accessing primary care.”
Smith said primary care providers throughout the Northern Zone have been “amazingly resilient” in adapting to the virtual care many have been providing during the pandemic.

He says the clinics, while they’re scheduled to operate until the end of June, will be re-assessed in a few weeks’ time as to its utilization and effectiveness, and to see if it’s possible to extend their operation even further.

“It’s a really great opportunity for people if they don’t have a doctor.”

To make an appointment, people who do not have a primary care provider and who are on the registry should call:

  • Cumberland County: 1-855-597-2420 Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to noon
  • New Glasgow (serving Pictou County): 902-752-8643 Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to noon
  • Truro (serving Colchester East Hants): 902-899-2273 Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to noon