Where do you go when you don’t have a doctor and haven’t seen one in over a year?
The Rouge Valley Health System has an answer.
Although not technically operating under that hospital’s framework, the Unattached Patient Clinic is located at the former Centenary Hospital at Nielson and Ellesmere roads, and is open to anyone without a regular family doctor, and who has not had one for over a year.
The clinic is the result of the encouragement of constitutional lawyer Sam Berman.
“Under the Canada Health Act and Provincial legislature people have a fundamental right to access healthcare,” Berman says.
But there is a discrepancy between the lawful requirements and the actual care people receive, he found when he studied the issue.
“Why is it that someone with diabetes and a family doctor gets treated, while someone without a doctor ends up in emergency with kidney failure?” he says.
Without regular checkups, diseases and problems become more developed and are harder to fix. “If you don’t catch things like that early, the cure rate is really lousy, but if you catch them early, the cure rate is extremely high and sometimes the issue becomes avoidable.”
He brought this issue to the local branch of the provincial health ministry and eventually they came up with a model.
The end result is that people come to the clinic, get a full screening and are able to be recommended to specialists. They are allowed three visits and in Scarborough are looked after by nurse practitioners.
Scarborough is only one of two sites. The other is a mobile rural site in Bethany, north of Peterborough, Ontario.
Although the Scarborough site has not been fully evaluated in its effectiveness, the mobile site has already reported that about one-third of the patients have some sort of medical disease and risks, according to Berman.
If the numbers are verified, the usefulness of the clinic cannot be understated.
However, the Scarborough clinic’s nurse practitioner Nicole Van Doornik says the clinic is not as busy as it should be, partly because of the H1N1 scare. Media focus on the swine flu shifted all attention off any other medical-related matters right when the clinic’s grand opening was to be held.
The Unattached Patient Clinic is a pilot project, scheduled to last until spring 2010.