Dressed appropriately in a liberal swath of red, Premier Kathleen Wynne paid a visit to Georgina’s nurse practitioner-led clinic to deliver a $1.63 million grant that will help meet the demand for local health care.
“Everyone here supports and believes in the notion that we should be able to provide high-quality, patient-centred care for people as close to their homes as possible,” Wynne said during the announcement of the provincial funding at the Dalton Road clinic Oct. 11.
“That’s what this clinic is about (and) our investment will help more people get the care they need faster and closer to home.”
The long-awaited and much-anticipated funding is the result of a comprehensive application put together by the clinic’s director, Beth Cowper-Fung, finally making its way through the bureaucratic process.
It will go toward the clinic’s new location on the vacant Lake Drive lot, just east of the town parkette, in Jackson’s Point.
“Thanks to the generosity of the Georgina Community Health Care Council, we’ve been able to stay here while we’ve been waiting for this great news, however the current building no longer meets code for a medical facility,” Cowper-Fung said.
More functional space to offer confidential programs to the clinic’s current 3,000 patients, as well as the opportunity to provide services to more people who do not have a primary health care provider are two key benefits of the new location, Cowper-Fung added.
It is the next step not only in the evolution of the nurse-practitioner model of health care, but also what Wynne called a “transformation of health care in Ontario” built on an interdisciplinary approach “that we know works so well.”
“To be fair, we’re just figuring that out again as a society,” Wynne said, adding offering an amalgam of services in one location is a “good idea” and counteracts the “silo” effect of care created during the past few decades.
Wynne added Georgina’s clinic is “ahead of the curve” in that respect.
Indeed, 15 applications were received from across the province this year, according to the executive director of the Nurse Practitioners’ Association of Ontario, Theresa Agnew.
Nurse practitioners (NPs) started out as registered nurses (RNs) who went back to university to “learn how to do more for their patients”, Cowper-Fung said.
Thanks to recent regulatory changes, the scope of nurse practitioners has expanded to include writing prescription medications and ordering diagnostic imaging.
Georgina’s one and only NP-led clinic — one of 25 clinics serving 60,000 people in the province — has come a long way since NP Anne Hughes worked alongside Dr. Burrows almost a decade ago.
Its current team offers primary care, as well as access to specialty services from social workers, a dietician, registered practical nurse, physiotherapist and lab technicians.
Combined, they provide a gamut of services from mental health care, to service co-ordination and referral to community health care providers and agencies, chronic disease management programs, patient education, health promotion and disease prevention programs and palliative care.
Services also include off-site house calls to the Chippewas of Georgina Island, local youth and women’s shelters and two area group homes.
“We provide primary care and services to all ages at all stages,” Cowper-Fung said. “From the first prenatal visit when we get to hear that first heartbeat, which is so exciting, to the very last of palliative care when we hear the very last.”
While the province is investing in family health teams and nurse practitioner-led clinics to advance the interdisciplinary care that people need, it also puts more money into hospitals, increasing funding for home care and mental health programs in schools, Wynne said.
“We understand that we have to work on all fronts,” she said.
Ontario’s health care budget for 2017-18 is $53.8 billion, which represents a 3.8 per cent increase from the previous year.
The Central East LHIN’s annual budget, which includes York Region, is $2 billion.
Breaking ground on the clinic’s new location is expected in 2018.