Health care professionals at the Lakehead Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinic in Thunder Bay, Ont. say they will soon have the staff and resources to help more patients, but many people will still be without a primary care provider.
After years of the clinic applying and lobbying for increased funding to hire more staff, on Thursday, the province announced $434,000 in increased base funding for the clinic.
"The government has afforded us the means to establish two more nurse practitioners, a half time social worker ... as well as a half time [registered nurse]" said Pam Delgaty, a nurse practitioner and the clinical director at the facility, adding that the money will also allow the in-house dietician to work full-time and allow the facility to hire administrative support.
Atikokan MPP Bill Mauro also announced that the clinic will receive a one-time funding allocation of $84,300.
Delgaty said they have been working towards receiving more support and funding from the government for the past six years as the "clinic was set up [to have] room for two more nurse practitioners."
"It has been challenging in a lot of ways. In nursing school we don't really learn how to be politicians and how to deal with that, but it's great now, because we are able to offer these services to the people in Thunder Bay," she told CBC News.
With the additional support, the Lakehead clinic will not only be able to hire more health-care professionals — meaning it will be able to accept 1,600 more patients — but also expand its operating hours into the evening and Saturday as well.
"We have walk-in clinic on Monday and Friday for our patients, so with this we will probably expand our days of walk-in clinic as well," Delgaty explained.
The clinic provides "primary health-care," which means patients can have access to services like regular check-ups, diagnostics, referrals and prescribing or refilling prescription medication.
People 'so desperate' to get health care
While being able to hire staff to take on an estimated additional 1,600 patients is "a wonderful step in the right direction," Delgaty said, more needs to be done.
Just going through the [patient[ applications, we see people that are so desperate to get health care," she said. "[Including] for simple things like getting their chronic medications refilled and they just can't do that and people want to look after themselves."
"There are a lot of nurse practitioners within our community looking for work," she continued. "There's actually nurse practitioners that could be providing the same service that these two additional ones will be doing, that are leaving our community because they can't find work."
"We're so happy that we had this funding so we can expand but we still have a lot of work to do to make sure that everyone has access to primary health care," Delgaty said, adding that means other facilities receiving additional funding to hire more nurse practitioners.