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Oro-Medonte hopes to score second nurse practitioner-led clinic

The Huronia Nurse Practitioner-led Clinic at Horseshoe Valley is so successful that Oro-Medonte Mayor Randy Greenlaw would like another one.

Following a recent presentation by the clinic to township council, the mayor made it clear the clinic has his full support.

“I think what you do for the community is amazing,” Greenlaw said. “I would encourage you to reach out and work with us to see if we could secure a second location in the township.”

While Greenlaw and the township council may be willing and eager to lend a hand, they may have to wait.

“We are a not-for-profit, provincially funded clinic,” Kate Dupuis, business operations manager at the clinic, told BarrieToday during an on-site interview. “It’s not as simple as ‘we can get you another building.’ There’s more to it than that, although we do appreciate the mayor’s endorsement.”

Opened in 2012, the primary care clinic provides team-based, interdisciplinary care to people living in or near Oro-Medonte.

If the term "team-based, interdisciplinary care" is slightly confusing, think of it like a professional football team that has a head coach responsible for the team’s overall success, and then a number of coaches focused on individual player performance.

“That’s actually a pretty good analogy,” said Malcolm Morum, executive director and nurse practitioner at the clinic. “If you want to keep that going, we quarterback not just for this internal system, but also the extended health-care system. If you need a specialist, or you need to go to Toronto for a cancer diagnosis, we throw the ball down there.”

Morum leads a team of professionals that includes five nurse practitioners, two registered nurses, a registered practical nurse, a registered pharmacist, a registered social worker, a registered psychotherapist, a business operations manager, and three administrative assistants.

Together, they take care of about 2,400 patients’ primary care needs — from the day-to-day aches and pains to maladies that range from sinus infections and pink eye to fevers and diabetes.

“One of our roles is, as much as we can with our capacity, to manage patient care so they don’t get so unwell that they need to go to an emergency department,” Morum said. “It’s very similar to what a family physician would do in a primary care practice.”

And, like a family physician, Morum — and other nurse practitioners — can order diagnostic tests, blood work, make patient referrals and write prescriptions.

“We no longer require oversight from a family doctor or a physician to be present in the clinic,” he said.

Morum began his career in health care as a registered nurse. When he accumulated enough hours on the job, he applied to become a nurse practitioner. The professional upgrade required additional schooling and allowed Morum to increase his scope of practice.

“There are differences between nurse practitioners and doctors — how they’re schooled and how they get paid — but for all intents and purposes in the clinic, there’s not much that separates them,” Morum said.

The biggest difference most people will notice between visiting a family physician and the Huronia Nurse Practitioner-led Clinic is the number of health-care professionals that may be personally involved in a patient’s diagnosis.

In a family physician’s office, a patient would probably be seen by a single doctor. In the clinic, you might be treated by an assortment of people.

“We don’t work alone — we work in a collaborative environment,” Morum said. “We work with a number of other providers, including family doctors and consulting physicians, who come and support our population under one roof.

“We also have mental health workers, nurses and a pharmacist,” he added.

The clinic has a capacity for 3,000 patients, Dupuis said. As each one needs to be individually assessed and diagnosed, the clinic is careful to not take too many patients at once.

“New patients require additional time because you’re getting to know them and their history,” Dupuis said. “We have to take that into account and we also have to make sure we can accommodate folks based on our available resources.”

According to Dupuis, registering with the clinic is straightforward and you don’t have to be a resident of Oro-Medonte.

“You have to be de-rostered from your family physician,” Dupuis said. “Your health card is linked to them and they are your primary provider. When you come to us, we are not able to roster because we don't charge OHIP (Ontario Hospital Insurance Program) for our services.

“You can pick one or the other, but not both,” she said.

Wayne Doyle, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, BarrieToday.com