By Melanie Holder
(Published in the Port Hawkesbury Reporter)
Last week over 25 community members and healthcare professionals gathered to share their thoughts about a collaborative model for primary healthcare.
On February 23, the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) hosted a community information session in St. Peter’s to discuss collaborative family practice teams. The event was one of a series of meetings that will take place across the province over the coming year.
“The main goal for tonight would be to connect with the community. To have them hear what we’ve been planning, and to hear their reaction to that,” said Kathy Bell, director of primary healthcare with the Eastern Zone.
“For me personally, it was wonderful to hear from each group, and to be able to sit with them and hear the conversations, and their comments and concerns.”
The NSHA has been working with healthcare providers to develop collaborative family practice teams to suit their community’s needs. The teams can be made up of physicians, nurse practitioners, and family practice nurses, as well as other healthcare professionals such as social workers or dietitians. Bell said the teams are not meant as a replacement for physician care, but to complement their practice.
Melanie Newell, health services manager with primary healthcare, provided participants with information collaborative care teams. Newell said the teams can ease the workload of family physicians, improve doctor retention and allow better access to care. Patients who may not need to see a physician for a particular health concern can access another member of the team.
“When we’re adding things like nurse practitioners and family practice nurses to teams, it allows some patients to be seen by the other provider that they need, which may free up some spaces so we can bring in additional people,” said Newell.
Newell said that collaborative teams could also provide patients more flexibility for scheduling appointments and streamline care by sharing medical information.
“No matter who you go to see, that team has access to that medical record, so they can get to know you on a deeper level and help provide better care for you,” said Newell.
In the Strait Richmond area, which includes Port Hawkesbury, Isle Madame and L’Ardoise, there are 616 people listed on the provincial registry for those in need of a family practice. There are currently two collaborative family practice teams in the region located in Port Hawkesbury and L’Ardoise.
Kathy Bell said a portion of the funding each year from the Department of Health and Wellness is dedicated to creating family practice teams. In recent years, the NSHA has advertised for expressions of interest from family physicians or groups of healthcare providers who would like to establish a team, or add additional members to an existing team.
“What was wonderful about that process was the large number that we heard from. The one we put out in December drew over 100 expressions of interest,” said Bell.
She said that the NSHA has received a new expression of interest from three physicians in Arichat who would like to be part of a collaborative family practice team.
“It’s not a new concept,” said Bell. “There’s been research around it nationally and internationally saying it’s the way to go. It’s not the only way to go, but it’s a way to help with recruitment and retention.”
The NSHA plans to hold at least one community discussion in each county over the coming year. A full schedule of community meetings, as well as additional information on collaborative family practice teams is available at: www.nshealth.ca.