By Seth DuChene
Those hoping to see a revival of the Non-Urgent Rapid Access after-hours clinic at the L&A County General Hospital got some hopeful words from Premier Kathleen Wynne in Napanee today.
Wynne visited the hospital as part of a tour of the region, which included stops in Peterborough and Kingston. During her visit — which included scooping ice cream in the cafeteria for hospital staff with hospital board chair Allan MacGregor — she met briefly with the hospital staff regarding the NURA clinic.
The premier said that the pilot project seemed to mesh well with the province’s new Patients First policy regarding health care in the province. “(Dr. Kim Morrison) was talking to me about how our policy, our Patients First policy from the provincial government, has been a catalyst for this hospital to start to work with all of the organizations and the health care providers in the region, including the First Nations, to really develop a model that will fit within the Patients First policy that we’re putting in place,” she said in a short interview with assembled media following the visit.
When asked whether the NURA clinic had a future within that framework, Wynne responded, “That is exactly what we’re going to look at. We’re going to go back and have that conversation with the Ministry of Health.”
The NURA finished its five-month run as a pilot project at the hospital last month. During that period, it saw more than 1,200 patients. A survey of clinic patients showed a 95 per cent satisfaction rate. More than half of those patients said they would have gone to the emergency room if the NURA clinic hadn’t been available, and 14 per cent of patients said that they didn’t have a family doctor.
Since the NURA’s closure, the hospital has stated that it is looking for an opportunity for the clinic to return to address ER overcrowding and to address a lack of family doctors in the region. Based on Wynne’s comments, there could be a place for the NURA clinic in the future.
“We’re in the process of implementing the Patients First policy across the province, and this is happening in other parts of the province, where communities are getting ready,” Wynne said. “My hope is that we’ll be able to move some of these communities that are ready, move them forward and get them doing what they know is going to work for their community best.”
She also said, “Because I came here today, I now know that this community is ready to move ahead, and I will be able to go back to the Minister of Health (Dr. Eric Hoskins) and say, ‘You know what, let’s take a look at this. It sounds like this is really exciting, let’s see if we can move this ahead.’”
Both Dr. Morrison and MacGregor said they were happy to get the positive feedback from Wynne.
The Patients First “Action Plan for Health Care” is aimed at putting “people and patients at the centre of the system by focusing on putting patients’ needs first,” according to the Ministry of Health website. That plan has four key objectives: providing faster access to the right care; delivering more connected and integrated care in the community, closer to home; providing better information and education to patients to make the right decisions about their health; and protecting the health care system by making it more sustainable, with improved reporting and patient engagement.
The premier said she has been spending some of the summer travelling the province, “just connecting from people and hearing from them.”
She liked what she saw in the Napanee hospital. “I’ve had an opportunity to talk with some patients and some staff here, and it just seems like a place that is innovating and is just a very positive community service,” she said, adding that it was a “great hospital.”