February 2, 2021
The Nova Scotia Association of Community Health Centres (NSACHC) is calling on the Provincial government to better utilize the expertise that Nurse Practitioners bring to primary health care.
A spokesperson for the Association, Dr. Dorothy Barnard, says they are befuddled by the under-utilization of nurse practitioners at a time when many Nova Scotians are without primary care providers. While understanding that this solution involves at least two separate funding streams, it does seem an opportune time for intersectoral collaboration to address this issue. Nurse practitioners and other health professionals like pharmacists, social workers, and family practice nurses could be better utilized and given the broader scope of practice for which they are qualified.
Dr. Barnard, a Board Member at the Dr. Kingston Memorial Community Health Centre in L’Ardoise Cape Breton and a member of Cape Breton South Recruiting for Health states, “Community Health Centres in Nova Scotia are ideally situated to have Nurse Practitioners and other allied health professionals within their centres. Community Health Centres are committed to addressing all of the social determinants of health through health care professional and community-based services- a comprehensive approach to health and well-being care”, explained Dr. Barnard. “Having more Nurse Practitioners based in communities throughout the province would significantly decrease the hardship of those Nova Scotians without access to primary care. It would also decrease inappropriate emergency rooms visits.”
Lorraine Burch, Manager at Our Health Centre in Chester said, “We needed the services a Nurse Practitioner can provide so hired our own with funds raised by the community”. She said this is not sustainable over the long-haul and funding and cooperation from our provincial and federal governments is required.
Trish McCourt, Executive Director of the Tri County Women’s Centre, that houses a Community Health Centre in Yarmouth, has been in communication with Nurse Practitioners who want to work at their Health Centre, where the doctor who provided clinical services recently retired. “We need NSH to allocate Nurse Practitioners to provide clinical services out of our centre”, she stated. “Many of our clients are from vulnerable populations and feel safe accessing services at our Health Centre. We can’t wait for doctors to move to our rural community, we need primary care providers like Nurse Practitioners now”.
It is the understanding of the Association that there are nurse practitioners working as regular registered nurses within the healthcare system. “This under-utilization of these highly qualified health professionals needs to be addressed”, stated Marie France LeBlanc Executive Director of the North End Community Health Centre in Halifax. “Give us the funding to hire these essential health professionals, or give them the ability to do direct billing to MSI, especially in this time of coping with an epidemic”.
Community Health Centres are community owned and operated not-for-profit organizations providing access to primary health care together with health promotion, community programs, and social services in one-on-one and group settings. There are currently six Community Health Centres in Nova Scotia. More information on Community Health Centres is available on the NSACHC web site – nsachc.org
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