PHOTO: MPP Bill Mauro at the Family Health Team’s Zuke Rd. site last week, with team board members Dr. Joanne Spencer, Councillor Jerry Duhamel, Edgar Morrissette, board chair Marlene Davidson, and Mayor Dennis Brown.
The Family Health Team will add a full-time nurse practitioner to its staff of health care professions, thanks to special funding from the province announced last week by MPP Bill Mauro.
This will mean “greater access to primary care for the residents of Atikokan,” said the MPP. “The Atikokan Family Health Team provides a comprehensive inter-disciplinary approach to providing health care to meet community needs. I want to congratulate and thank the AFHT for their vision and efforts, which I know will continue to improve patient outcomes for people living in Atikokan.”
Nurse practitioners are highly trained health care professionals who combine their advanced nursing knowledge with an in-depth understanding of health management, health promotion, and disease and injury prevention. Their scope of practice (which was recently upgraded in Ontario) includes a licence to prescribe a defined range of medications, to order certain diagnostic tests, and to communicate a diagnosis.
Dr. Joanne Spencer, a member of the family health team board, said the nurse practitioner would be a welcome addition to the very short-staffed primary health care team in town.
Board chair Marlene Davidson said the family health team has been working for some time to add a nurse practitioner; the current staff includes three RNs, two RPNs, a mental health worker, and on a part-time basis, a nurse practitioner, a pharmacist, and dietitian. It has already advertised the position, and has drawn numerous applications.
The funding for the position – $144,062 – was part of the Ontario budget, and will become part of the family health team’s base budget. It will also help cover operational needs. The announcement came with an additional one-time grant of $28,000 to fund an expansion of office space in the family health team’s Zuke Rd. facility.
A few days after making this announcement, MPP Mauro was in Thunder Bay to announce the province would support the Lakehead nurse practitioner-led clinic at the former McKellar Hospital site to add two full-time nurse practitioners to bring its total to six. The money – $434,000 in new base funding and $84,000 in a one-time grant – will allow the clinic to increase its patient load by fifty percent to a capacity of 4,800.