Being without a family doctor has become a huge stressor for many families in the Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington area, and indeed across the province — but Napanee has a new clinic that hopes to alleviate some of that stress.
Beginning on August 30, 2023, patients in Napanee or throughout Lennox and Addington who do not have a primary care provider (that is, no family doctor or nurse practitioner) can book appointments bi-weekly on Wednesday afternoons for non-urgent care at Napanee’s new health clinic, located in the Napanee and Area Community Health Centre (NACHC) building at 26 Dundas Street West. (Note that this is not a walk-in clinic; it requires booking in advance.)
Katherine Cooper, Clinical Coordinator at NACHC, said the new clinic really got off the ground when the Children’s Outpatient Clinic (COPC) at Kingston Health Sciences Centre’s Hotel Dieu Hospital site was forced to cap its number of walk-in patients in May of 2023.
Cooper said that NACHC contacted COPC staff out of sympathy, knowing how difficult it must have been to make the decision to limit services, and asked if anything could be done to alleviate the pressure. “[COPC’s] feedback to us was [that they would] would love for there to be more options available… So many of [the cases are] highly acute, episodic ear infections, eye infections, things that people don’t need to be sitting in [the emergency room for], but they also don’t need to be sitting [at COPC] for hours before [staff] can get to them.”
Cooper acknowledged, “It didn’t make sense for us to work our way into that existing system. We also work in a collaborative space with other community partners, and they’re… pushing to have access for their clients. We love that so many people we work with are health care advocates, but we know that our capacity does not extend to offering ongoing primary care for these folks.”
“But we didn’t want to just do nothing, either,” Cooper went on. “So we just decided that the best and most sustainable option was to offer appointments for acute episodic situations as an access point that’s more rural, for the folks of Lennox and Addington.”
Pharmacists being able to treat some conditions has helped immensely, Cooper said, “which we deeply appreciate, but we also know that sometimes there’s a bit more complexity, and they’re… also becoming more overwhelmed [and are] limited in their scope of practice. So we’re just trying to fill some of those gaps while keeping it sustainable for the nurse practitioner.”
With just four nurse practitioners working at NACHC, all of whom have a full slate of clients, the scope of what the new clinic can offer is limited. “We’re not able to offer prescription renewal,” Cooper explained, “because for that you need a comprehensive health history to be able to safely prescribe medications to folks … [and] even with a renewal, there’s always the possibility that there will need to be a change in medication.” Also the need for follow-up is just too much of a burden for the current staff.
“While we wish we could offer other services that do require follow-up, we need to ensure it is sustainable so that we can continue to offer this to the community going forward,” she explained.
However, Cooper is delighted that the clinic can at least prevent some emergency room visits for people who need non-urgent care but have no primary care provider.
“We’re lucky that we have this,” Cooper emphasized, “even though it’s limited. We’re really excited to be able to do something about the primary care crisis within our area. And we really hope that at least covering ear infections, eye infections, things like that, will make a bit of a difference for some of our local folks and their families.”
Online booking of appointments at the new health clinic is available up to 14 days in advance.
Non-urgent symptoms the team can address are:
- cough/cold and flu symptoms
- urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- new rashes
- ear Infections or eye Infections (such as pink eye)
- allergic reactions to animal or insect bites/bee stings (when not life-threatening)
- sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing (when symptomatic — if you do not have any symptoms, you can access STI testing any time during the NACHC’s regular operating hours)
The new clinic operates in addition to the services residents have become accustomed to. Napanee Area Community Health Centre serves about 60,000 residents of the Rural Frontenac Lennox and Addington region, spread out over a very large and rural district. All services are free unless otherwise stated.
For more information on all programs, please call 613-354-8937, extension7111. To book an online appointment, visit the NACHC website and scan the QR code provided.