Partners come together to help a community in need

Mobile primary care clinic located in Sydney, at Seventh Exchange in Membertou.

The impacts of Hurricane Fiona will be felt across the province for some time. The storm brought extreme wind and rain, and communities in the Cape Breton region were hardest hit. In response, Nova Scotia Health, Emergency Health Services and local communities have opened a mobile primary care clinic in Cape Breton to help those impacted.

“The past few days have been incredibly challenging,” said Dr. Cindy MacQuarrie, Senior Director of Interprofessional Practice and Learning, Nova Scotia Health. “I am grateful for the opportunity to not only help with the set-up of this important service, which could lead to a broader opportunity in the province but also support providers with what they need to work in these clinics. I am thankful to my wonderful team who have hit the ground running.”

Nurse practitioners and a community paramedic are providing care to patients, and they are excited to bring their expertise and experience to this service. There are also team members who are offering care virtually. The team sees this as a way to give back to a community in need of help.

“I am so very proud of the teams that have come together to support this important initiative bringing their expertise, innovative and flexible attitude, to mobilize very quickly the implementation of this service,” said Dr. Tara Sampalli, Senior Scientific Director for Nova Scotia Health.

The mobile clinic can help people with injuries or illnesses typically treated by a family doctor or nurse practitioner. After the appointment, anyone with a family doctor or nurse practitioner should follow up with their provider for ongoing care. For anyone without, they will be encouraged to continue receiving care through VirtualCareNS.

“Through the Health Innovation Hub and working with partners, we are ready to learn quickly using a “test and try” innovations and innovative models of care,” said Dr. Gail Tomblin Murphy, Vice President Research, Innovation and Discovery and Chief Nurse Executive. “This includes the mobile primary care clinic, with healthcare professionals bringing their expertise to meeting priority access needs for Nova Scotians and creating an opportunity to learn in real-time to inform scale and spread across the province.”

The Implementation Science team, along with Interprofessional Practice and Learning, key members from Research, Innovation and Discovery and partners from the eastern zone and public health helped design and implement this service.

“It has been a truly rewarding experience and learning opportunity for me and the province," said Sampalli. “We are especially grateful to key partners and community leaders in Eastern Zone who have brought their collective expertise to the process. We love the “let’s do this” attitude of our mobile clinical team.”

The mobile primary care service will be located in Sydney, at Seventh Exchange in Membertou, until October 6. It will be open on September 30, on National Day for Truth and Reconciliation from 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. Hours will be from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. starting on Sunday, October 2. 

“Making sure people get the care they need, especially in the hardest hit places in our province, is a priority of our health system,” said Michelle Thompson, Minister of Health and Wellness. “As we all work together to pick up the pieces in the aftermath of Hurricane Fiona, I want to thank everyone who was able to quickly roll out the mobile clinic in Cape Breton.”

“I’m very grateful to all staff involved in pulling this mobile primary care service together,” said Brett MacDougall, Vice President of Operations for Eastern Zone. “Our response and recovery efforts have been amazing and I’m happy to see additional access to primary care during this challenging time.  I greatly admire all our health care professionals who have continued to provide excellence in care. It is wonderful to see so much collaboration both locally and provincially.”

The service cannot help those in urgent or life-threatening situations, and there is no access to a lab or diagnostic imaging services. Anyone who needs urgent or emergency care, should go to the nearest emergency department or call 911. Other care options include 811 to speak with a registered nurse, 211 for information on health, mental health, and addiction services, and VirtualCareNS for anyone who is on the Need a Family Practice Registry.

“We are extremely happy to be partnering with Nova Scotia Health and our community partners on this important initiative and will continue supporting this innovative model of care,” said Derek LeBlanc, Senior Manager of Provincial Programs, EHS Operations. “We are eager to learn more from the integrated work done by our paramedics working alongside NPs and other professionals within the mobile clinic”

“By quickly standing up this mobile clinic we are now able to treat people that otherwise would have gone to their local emergency department or left their health concerns untreated," said Michelle DePodesta, Executive Director, Acute Health Services - Eastern Zone at Nova Scotia Health Authority. "Every patient that goes through those clinic doors makes this initiative extremely rewarding.”

"The Public Health Mobile Unit (PHMU) program was developed in fall 2020 to bring COVID-19 services to communities across the province, and quickly provide testing support," said Holly Gillis, Public Health Director, COVID-19 testing and Public Health Mobile Units. "The work includes a collaborative team of  Public Health nurses, emergency support aides, administrative professionals and drivers. PHMU is partnering with primary health to provide on-site PCR testing, distribute rapid test kits, and can help people find answers to their COVID-19 questions."

More information about the primary health mobile clinic can be found here.