QHC honours Belleville nurse practitioner-led clinic, Gateway centre

June 29, 2022

The Intelligencer published an article June 28th 2022

At each meeting, QHC board members present their “Values in Action” certificate of recognition to those who make a difference. Most recipients are QHC personnel or volunteers.

But on Tuesday at Belleville General Hospital, treasurer John Kearns presented the award to Karen Clayton-Babb, the chief nurse practitioner and director of the Belleville Nurse Practitioner-led Clinic. The same award went to Gateway Community Health Centre of Tweed, but no representative was present to receive it.

Kearns described the reality for so-called unattached patients: receiving care after giving birth, but leaving the hospital without someone to track your baby’s growth, or being a senior with multiple health conditions but no regular provider of care or someone to renew prescriptions.

Some are left with no choice but to seek care in hospital emergency departments, he said, “or worse, don’t seek care at all, leading to deteriorating health.”

The clinic and health centre, though, banded together to offer a service with a simple goal but a long name: the Hastings Prince Edward Ontario Health Team Virtual Support for Unattached Patients program.

It has since helped more than 1,282 people through 3,649 visits in six months.

“Many of these virtual visits have resulted in patients being diverted from QHC’s emergency departments, or have prevented potential hospital admissions or readmissions,” Kearns said.

“Patient flow has been a huge challenge for our hospitals, with the pandemic exacerbating these concerns,” said QHC vice-president and chief nursing officer Lina Rinaldi stated in a board document.

“We often have patients using our emergency departments for primary care concerns like ear infections or medication renewals because they have nowhere else to turn.”

Rinaldi added the two partners “are showing a real desire to help the system and to ensure people get the right care, at the right time, in the right place.”

Clinic director Karen Clayton-Babb added many of the visits were coordinated with QHC to ensure timely appointments for patients newly-released from hospital, reducing the risk of readmission.

Many patients were overdue for preventative screening and while some received abnormal results, they received referrals to specialists.

“One cannot help but wonder at what stage these diseases would have been caught, if it was not for access to the virtual clinic,” Clayton-Babb stated.

The clinic “has also received funding to provide follow up care to QHC newborns during their first two months of life,” Kearns continued. That program has yet to be established fully, but the clinic has so far accepted more than 100 “unattached” babies via QHC. Many of their relatives also have no primary-care provider and have received care through the clinic.

parents are also unattached patients and received care or immunizations from the clinic.

“Newborns are supposed to be seen by a primary care provider within 72 hours of discharge,” stated QHC’s Tracey Giles, the program director of maternal child and mental health.

Having the clinic following those babies “for their first two months of life provides peace of mind that there’s a plan in place and the newborns are getting the care they need once they leave the hospital.

“We hope there will be an opportunity to extend the care window beyond the first two months of life.”

Kearns said the program is a “prime example” of a local solution to rising needs for health care.

“We need to work together to find local solutions that have a big impact.”