Yarmouth medical clinic teeters on verge of closure

The Leahey Wellness Clinic in Yarmouth has run out of money, according to the executive director of the Tri-County Women's Centre.

Leahey Wellness Clinic has appointments booked until May

Members of NSCC's carpentry program stand outside the to-be-poured foundation during construction of the Leahey Wellness Clinic, which opened in 2015. (Submitted by Bernadette MacDonald)

A clinic serving patients in rural Nova Scotia who don't have doctors might soon have to close its doors, little more than a year after it opened. 

The Leahey Wellness Clinic in Yarmouth ran out of money and planned to close on April 1, according to the executive director of the Tri-County Women's Centre, which houses the clinic. 

Nova Scotia's Department of Health and Wellness told staff to keep the clinic open for an extra week, Bernadette MacDonald said, but she doesn't know what the future holds.

"It would be a huge loss to the many hundreds of people in the Tri-County area who don't have a doctor," MacDonald said. "It would be tragic." 

Clinic gives 'essential services'

Yarmouth, Digby and Shelburne residents have appointments booked at the clinic until late May, she said.

The clinic, which MacDonald said costs $38,000 annually to operate, opened in January 2015 for women seeking gynaecological care from a female physician. It also serves at-risk youth.

In addition to 58 women accessing those services, she said the clinic saw nearly 500 additional patients without family doctors in the last year.

"We didn't intend this, but we are now providing essential services," MacDonald said. 

Because the clinic monitors people's health, it is "keeping people out of the emergency department," she said. "That's the big thing."

Bernadette MacDonald of the Tri-County Women's Centre says shutting the clinic down would be a huge loss for the community. (Submitted by Bernadette MacDonald)

Operating money mainly covers supplies and a full-time medical administrator, she said.

Community members raised the initial $22,000 to open the clinic, including building materials and supplies. The Nova Scotia Community College carpentry program in Yarmouth built it as an addition to the Tri-County Women's Centre — free of charge.

Since the clinic opened 15 months ago, the organization has raised an additional $12,000 to keep it going. 

"We've saturated the community," MacDonald said, noting the community is economically stretched. "There comes a time when the need is greater than fundraising drives."

The Department of Health and Wellness said it is in the process of arranging a meeting with Health Minister Leo Glavine to "better understand the concerns and challenges the clinic is facing."

A look inside the Leahey Wellness Clinic in Yarmouth. (Submitted by Bernadette MacDonald)

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Allison Devereaux

Allison Devereaux is a freelance radio producer and host in Halifax. Twitter: @allisondev

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