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No walk-ins at new clinic: Shelburne mayor concerned for residents without family doctors

Construction of a new $3 million collaborative health centre is still underway.
Construction of a new $3 million collaborative health centre is still underway. - Kathy Johnson

SHELBURNE, N.S. – While a new $3-million collaborative health centre under construction adjacent to Roseway Hospital is on target for completion by the fall, since there will be no walk-in component to the operations it doesn’t appear it is going to address the issue of people without a family doctor, said Shelburne Mayor Karen Mattatall.

“No walk-in component, that’s a major concern,” said Mattatall in an interview.

“Anyone without a doctor is still not going to have a doctor,” she said, noting in recent media coverage the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) suggested ER coverage at Roseway Hospital, once the clinic was built, would be done by locums. “That’s very concerning. If the NSHA can’t find enough doctors to run the ER now what’s going to happen if its totally dependant on locums?”

As it is now, staffing for the new collaborative health centre – consisting of four family physicians, two nurse practitioners, two family practice nurses and clerical support – is already in place and operating in temporary space at the Roseway Hospital. The collaborative family practice team will re-locate to the new building when construction is completed, said Fraser Mooney, NSHA Public Engagement and Communications spokesperson for Digby, Shelburne and Yarmouth Counties.

“While staffing is currently in place, we will still be looking to expand the team as time goes on and add other providers to best serve the needs of their patients,” said Mooney.

“We recognize there are people in the community who currently do not have a primary provider. Strengthening and supporting the family practice team is important to recruit and retain all health professionals, which will lead to more opportunity for access to primary care,” he said. “So, the health centre will not be a walk-in clinic, but we expect the family practice team will be able to take on new patients as time goes on.”

According to the latest Roseway Hospital community update newsletter, the Shelburne family practice team is accepting people who are pregnant, or who are 6 years-old or younger, as new patients. “As the family practice team continues to grow, they expect to be able to increase the number of new patients they will be able to accept in the future,” states the update.

Mattatall noted some areas that have built collaborate care centres have not been successful in recruiting doctors so it remains to be seen what will happen here she said, calling it a field of dreams: “Build it and they will come.”

In the meantime, anyone without a family doctor or nurse practitioner are urged to register with the need a family practice provincial registry by calling 811 or visiting the website needafamilypractice.nshealth.ca

Also, as part of a series of public meetings being held across Nova Scotia, the NSHA will be hosting a community conversation in Shelburne on Thursday, June 14 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Shelburne Community Centre on King Street to talk about collaborative family practice teams.

“We would like to share more about collaborative family practice teams, hear your thoughts, and learn what we need to know to make these teams a success in Shelburne and across Nova Scotia,” states the NSHA newsletter.

“If they’re having a meeting and are going to allow the public and the medical staff to speak freely and express concerns that’s one thing. If it’s going to be a meeting that is controlled and only allowed to speak about what the NSHA wants us to speak out about I’m not sure of the value,” said Mattatall.

Space is limited for the community conversation, says the NSHA. People can reserve a spot by registering at 1-833-682-5988 or email register@nshealth.ca Input is also being accepted online. For more information visit: talkaboutfamilypracticeteams.ca.

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