Advocates worried about possible closure of Truro Sexual Health Centre
The centre is an important provider of services for transgender people
A health facility that serves the needs of the transgender community in northern Nova Scotia is facing possible closure, and people who work at and use the clinic are imploring the provincial health authority not to withdraw its support.
The Truro Sexual Health Centre is awaiting a meeting with the Nova Scotia Health Authority on Aug. 4 to determine its future.
Katie Freeman, a 34-year-old transgender patient of the Truro centre, said closing the centre would have a domino effect.
"There're only a handful of sexual health clinics in Nova Scotia, even losing one centre would overcrowd other centres," she said. "It's already a very stressed system in Nova Scotia."
According to Freeman, the process of transitioning with the help of the Truro centre has been a revelation: "Starting my hormones was like seeing the world in colour for the first time. It changed my life."
Members of the transgender community from as far away as Glace Bay, N.S., and P.E.I. have accessed primary health care at the facility since it opened in 2019.
Services offered to transgender patients in Truro include letters of readiness, assistance with hormone replacement therapy and medical checkups.
The sexual health centre operates inside the health authority's collaborative health centre in Truro.
Since last fall, the health authority has provided office space for the sexual health centre, and some of its staff take on the centre's administrative and nursing support duties in addition to their regular work.
That arrangement is now under review.
The centre suspended most operations in March because of COVID-19 restrictions.
'This type of clinic belongs in the community,' says doctor
Dr. Hali Bauld, co-founder of the centre, said it's important for people to have access to local health care.
"Ideally, this type of clinic belongs in the community," she said.
"I think to appropriately address the sexual health needs of people in the northern zone of Nova Scotia, it should be located in the community with the appropriate administrative and nursing supports that [the] care of this community deserves," she added.
As evidence of the advantages of a regional centre, she said wait times at the Truro centre before the shutdown were six to eight weeks, compared to seven months in Halifax.
Bauld is optimistic about the meeting with the NSHA, but also realistic about competing health-care demands.
"There's lots of services that have many needs in Nova Scotia." she said. "We have high rates of chronic disease. We have high rates of cancers. There's always situations and diseases and patients that need care in other areas. So it's just a matter of highlighting how important it is for us to continue this clinic in Truro."
In an email to CBC News, the health authority said it was unable to provide an interview, but said the "continuation of this service is important for the community." It also reaffirmed its commitment to "discuss next steps in terms of restarting the clinic and its services" at the meeting in early August.
In the meantime, Bauld said the Colchester East Hants Health Centre has agreed to provide the Truro Sexual Health Centre with some limited space and time for urgent patient-related visits at their facility.
With files from Shaina Luck