The Norman Recollet Health Centre in Wahnapitae First Nation officially launched its full-time nurse practitioner services on Nov. 4.
The centre is a fully operational clinic with two exam rooms stocked with state-of-the-art medical equipment.
Members will not only have access to a full-time nurse practitioner, but a full health care team that includes a health director, community wellness workers, family well-being worker, cultural co-ordinator, massage therapist, diabetic foot care specialist and medical transportation services.
Rebecca Foreshew has been working at the health centre for most of this year, but as of Nov. 4, she is now on site full-time throughout the week to provide a level of service and care that the community has not had until now.
"There has always been a health centre here but there has never been a permanent full-time nurse practitioner at this location," said Foreshew. "There has been contract nurse practitioners that have come out monthly in the past, but this is the first time ever that there has been someone here full-time."
Foreshew will serve as a primary care provider for the roughly 150 permanent residents of Wahnapitae First Nation, offering a breadth of services that oftentimes in the past required travel into Sudbury on days that a nurse practitioner was not on site.
"I have seen patients already but it just hasn't been advertised that we were open for all of these services until now," said Foreshew.
"A lot of the clients that will be coming in won't have a family physician or nurse practitioner so I will be their primary care provider. Things that can be provided, I can do assessment, diagnosis, referrals to specialists, I can give immunizations, physicals, minor procedures such as injections and suturing. Basically I can offer the same services as a family doctor's office."
The centre's health director, Robin Cheslock, says that the increased accessibility to these services will lead to better health outcomes for a population that has been calling out for these services for a number of years.
"It's been an ask that was put in about seven years ago, there were community consultations, then about five years ago they put in the planning for these nurse practitioner services or some form of primary care," said Cheslock. "There's a lot of people ahead of us who put in the groundwork that needed to happen and this team started this year and gained some traction and we're now able to launch primary care here."
The nurse practitioner service and the mental health care service are both funded by the Wahnapitae First Nation.
While adding these services to the community is a signifant step forward, there are numerous levels of health care within the system, and accessing specialized care still requires travel which can be difficult for members of the community.
Enter the Norman Recollet Health Centre's medical transportation service, which will transport clients who need specialized care at Health Sciences North.
"We actually do multiple runs every day, it's used on an as-needed basis," said Cheslock, who says that it's incumbent on health team members to get out in the community to spread the word about these services, as well as keep a strong track record to gain the trust of the community.
"I think it's a 'let's wait and see what they do', not wanting to get their hopes up, but they're putting their faith in the chief and council that these health services were going to get here and I think they're mildly surprised at the extent and volume of services we're able to provide here."
Cheslock expects it to be a slow trickle as far as how many clients visit the health centre, and Foreshew says that she's expecting to see about five to six clients per day, which she says is better in the early stages.
"It's a good thing because it gives me more time with the patients that are coming in," said Foreshew.
In addition to serving the 150 or so permanent residents of Wahnapitae First Nation, Cheslock has already made plans to introduce mobile clinics in the new year, making weekly stops in commuinities like Sudbury, Blind River and Killarney.
"We have a lot of members that live in these communities that we want to be able to provide services to," said Cheslock. "We'll be out there once a week, then the rest of the week we'll be here at the health centre."
The clinic is in the process of expanding on its offered services and is actively seeking a mental health and addiction clinician (social worker); other future services are also in the planning stages.
For more information on the services offered, contact the Norman Recollet Health Centre at 705-858-7700, or visit them at 259 Taighwenini Trail Rd.