Nova Scotia

After fears it would close, Truro Sexual Health Centre to remain open

Facing possible closure, a sexual health clinic in Truro, N.S., that offers health care to transgender people will continue to operate and might one day see an expansion of services.

'It was a huge relief,' says patient Katie Freeman

Katie Freeman, left, a transgender patient of the Truro Sexual Health Centre, hugs her mother in this photo taken July 27, 2020. (Patrick Callaghan/CBC)

A sexual health clinic in Truro, N.S., that offers health care to transgender people will continue to operate and might one day see an expansion of services.

The Truro Sexual Health Centre operates one evening a week out of office space provided by the Nova Scotia Health Authority's local collaborative health centre.

"It was a huge relief," said patient Katie Freeman, who accesses the clinic for transgender health care and hormone replacement therapy.

"On top of my own access to basic health services, I have local friends that were forced to put their transitions on hold because of the closure, so knowing that they can finally get the support that they need to start the transition just means a lot to me."

Transgender health care is a large part of the clinic's services, and it also offers services like sexually transmitted disease testing and treatments, birth control, pregnancy counselling and pap smears.

Although the health centre is not officially operated by the health authority, NSHA employees do the centre's administrative and nursing support duties, in addition to their regular work, as a partnership with the community.

Dr. Hali Bauld is the founder of the Truro Sexual Health Centre. (Dave Laughlin/CBC)

Last month, people who work at and use the clinic became concerned the NSHA was reviewing that partnership and might withdraw its support.

But at a meeting on Aug. 5, NSHA offiicals told clinic founder Dr. Hali Bauld the arrangement would continue.

"They indicated that we would receive the same amount of nursing hours as we had had previously, so that would be three hours a week," Bauld said.

The NSHA staff will also continue to give administrative support for booking and checking patients in to the Wednesday evening clinic, and the NSHA will seek more funding to increase nursing support outside clinic hours.

"They also acknowledged that those hours and that level of support is probably not enough," Bauld said. She estimates there are more than 100 patients who need to be rescheduled.

"So I would say three hours a week would just be a drop in the bucket in terms of demand, and I think we would have to operate at least double that capacity to meet the current demand that there is for our service," she said.

'An excellent example'

In an email to CBC News, Graeme Kohler, the director of primary health care for the northern zone, wrote that the centre is "an excellent example of passionate physicians working in partnership with Nova Scotia Health to meet the needs of community members."

Kohler said the NSHA is pleased with the arrangement and had "no intention of ever withdrawing support."

"We will continue to partner with the physicians to support this clinic and will explore future opportunities to ensure proper staffing and support is in place," he wrote.

Freeman welcomed that news and said many in the LGBTQ community feel the same way.

"It's such good news, especially the fact they're going to seek additional funding because it's a sign that we're moving in the right direction," she said.

The clinic is scheduled to reopen on the first Wednesday in September.

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Shaina Luck

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Shaina Luck covers everything from court to city council. Her favourite stories are about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. Email: shaina.luck@cbc.ca

With files from Vernon Ramesar

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