City of Kawartha Lakes FHT nurse practitioner helps minimize doctor shortage gap

June 05, 2023

Kawartha Lakes This Week published an article  on June 2, 2023

By Catherine Whitnall Kawartha Lakes This Week 

To say Kelsie Jeffery is perfectly suited to working as a nurse practitioner in the Kawartha Lakes is an understatement.

The fact she is also the primary care provider for the City of Kawartha Lakes Family Health Team’s recently launched urgent care clinic further underscores the crucial need for her expertise.

Jeffery is one of two nurse practitioners joining the local health team following the approval of provincial funding earlier this year.

“To get someone of Kelsie’s calibre, it’s not only difficult, it’s impossible,” said Health Team executive director Aasif Khakoo. “Not only is it hard to find a nurse practitioner who can work autonomously, but with her extensive background as a clinician, she’s exactly what this community desperately needs.”

An estimated 26,000 residents — close to one-third of the municipality’s population — do not have a family doctor or nurse practitioner.

Initially, Jeffery wanted to be a family doctor but, after high school, opted to go into nursing. She worked at small cottage hospitals in British Columbia before moving to the Northwest Territories, where she worked for nine years in remote, fly-in communities as a community health nurse.

During this time, Jeffery completed nurse practitioner master’s studies, capitalizing on her 17 years of nursing experience in emergency, obstetrics and acute care, as well as specialty focuses in geriatrics, cognitive assessment, pediatrics, sexual health care and primary health care across the lifespan.

Prior to joining the health team in Lindsay, the Newtonville resident worked in Port Perry.

While one reason behind the move was to be closer to home and family, Jeffery also wanted to help address the doctor and nurse shortage impact on rural areas like the Kawartha Lakes.

“That’s where the health care need is. We’ve seen a huge vacancy of health-care professionals and that has affected thousands of patients over the years … And even when a new family doctor is recruited, they’re not taking the same number of patients,” said Khakoo.

Jeffrey noted that this has contributed to a documented increase in acute illness, as people are more likely to wait until an issue is so serious that it validates an emergency department visit.

“So not only are they in more urgent need of care, but if they have chronic conditions, they have often contributed to additional health-care issues,” said Jeffrey.

The COVID-19 pandemic only served to make matters worse.

Jeffrey noted that virtual care helped fill some of the void created during restrictions, but had limited applications.

“It served its purpose, but there are facets that you don’t catch virtually. That’s where in-person care is key,” said Jeffrey.

After-hours clinics have helped address need; however, demand has increased significantly over the years and were not truly meant to service chronic or urgent issues.

“The urgent care clinic is designed to treat episodic issues, meaning the individual needs the care now,” said Jeffrey, who has also been taking on new patients, the priority being those without a primary care provider. “The clinic also has a mental health component that offers single-session therapy to immediately address a crisis and develop a systematic plan for ongoing support.”

The clinic runs Fridays — with the exception of statutory holidays — from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 55 Angeline St. N. in Lindsay. The clinic is by appointment, and only those with a valid OHIP card are eligible.

Although uptake has been slow, both Jeffrey and Khakoo suspect clinic use will increase as awareness spreads.

To book an appointment at the urgent care clinic, call 705-328-9853, ext. 296, or online at cklfamilyhealthteam.com/urgent-care-clinic/ on Fridays between 8 and 9:30 a.m.

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