By Ashley Thompson
(Published in the Kings County Advertiser Register)
Need a family doctor? Take a number.
Health authority representatives are urging patients in need of a family practice to register for the provincial wait list by calling 811, or visiting the self-service website at needafamilypractice.nshealth.ca.
The advice applies to patients with no family doctors, and those impacted by recent or upcoming retirements.
Healthcare providers taking on new patients will pull names from the 811 list as openings become available. The family practice will initiate contact.
The Kingston Family Health Centre is a new collaborative practice with three physicians, a family practice nurse and nurse practitioner seeing patients on a regular basis.
“We have room to bring in one to two more physicians, hopefully,” said Jen Kelday, a health services lead with the Nova Scotia Health Authority.
Two of the three physicians in place are gradually accepting new patients and the third took over an existing practice with a full patient list, Kelday said.
“When you take on a new patient you have to do a 30-minute appointment to get to know them and get a baseline,” she said, noting that the initial consultations and resulting data input makes this a time consuming process.
Kelday said there has been some confusion after Dr. Kiera Haddow left the practice to accept a job out of province. She stressed that Haddow has been replaced, and there is still a physician seeing her former patients at Kingston’s collaborative practice.
“If you were one of Dr. Haddow’s patients, you do have a doctor here,” she said.
Dr. McGuire returns to roots
Dr. Kevin McGuire, originally from the Kingston area, joined the health centre in August after taking on Dr. Ainamo’s patients.
“When I went to med school I knew that I wanted to come back and practice here, and serve the community that I was raised in,” he said.
He completed his residency in Maine, and worked there for an additional three years before moving back home.
Kingston was a clear choice for McGuire, the youngest son of well-known local family physician Dr. Paul McGuire.
“That was the intent, to move back for good,” he said.
McGuire fully expects a few light-hearted “chip off the old block” jokes as he builds his own practice in an area his father has served for nearly 45 years.
“I think a lot of people are motivated by what their parents do,” he said, noting that he likes having the opportunity to track a patient’s progress as a family physician.
“It’s the relationships that you build. I worked in emergency medicine in the States for a couple of years, which was a lot of fun, but you don’t get that same rapport with your patients.”
The collaborative approach
Nurse practitioner Dale Young started working out of the collaborative practice in Kingston Oct. 2.
“We can take on patients of our own and follow them very similar to what a family doctor will do,” said Young, noting that nurse practitioners have additional training that allows them to diagnose, prescribe and interpret test results in some cases.
Patients can be referred to Young through the provincial 811 wait list.
“A lot of times doctors are very highly trained and doing a lot of things that we could easily come in and take over,” said Young.
“Nurses can do a lot more with just a little extra training.”
Existing patients can contact the health centre to inquire about same-day spots in urgent cases, Kelday said.
“Everyone is keeping some same-day spots open for urgent care because we’re really trying to have some of those people not sitting at the ER.”
For patients without a designated family practice, there is a walk-in clinic at Western Kings Memorial Health Centre in Berwick, the 24/7 811 phone line for health information and advice, or emergency services at Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital in Middleton and Valley Regional Hospital in Kentville.
Did you know?
Nova Scotia Health Authority spokesperson Deidre Taylor recently told Kings County News 39,965 Nova Scotians were registered as being without a family practice as of Nov. 1, including 10,526 residents of the western zone (Annapolis Valley, South West and South Shore).