P.E.I.'s two new health-care clinics for people who cannot access health care virtually because they require a face-to-face visit are being welcomed by Islanders without a family doctor.
Medical secretary Mikaela McEachern works at the primary care access clinic in Charlottetown. She phones up to 50 people a day who have tried to receive care online but have been unsuccessful due to the nature of their medical concern.
Depending on the case McEachern may tell people to come and see the nurses on staff.
"We've had some tears of happiness and just sheer surprise. They were wondering where to go next. So, it was nice to give them the next step," she said.
McEachern said sometimes she is able to redirect patients to health-care services such as a women's clinic or the adult ADHD clinic at UPEI.
Another primary care clinic at Slemon Park, near Summerside, went into operation last month, but there's no doctor on staff.
Nurse practitioner Dawn Holloway diagnoses and prescribes with assistance from Tash Stewart, a licensed practical nurse.
"We're seeing a lot of different varieties of patient concerns. Everybody's been so optimistic, so thankful for the care they've received here," said Holloway.
"This is just another step in the right direction here. We've got another NP hired, we're hoping to get more clinical resources into place for the clinic."
Staff at both clinics know what it's like to be in their patients' shoes. McEachern and Holloway are both among the 25,000 Islanders without a family doctor.
"I'm on the registry myself," said Holloway. "Kind of in the same boat as a lot of Islanders."
Officials with Health P.E.I. said the new clinics complement other health-care options including the program that allows pharmacists to assess and prescribe for 32 common ailments, with the government now picking up the consultation fee.
So far, the two clinics are each seeing up to a dozen patients a day. But Health P.E.I. said it will ramp up staff and is broadening the scope of practice at them.
"Over the course of the next few weeks and coming months we're going to see some pretty significant growth in the number of people that we can provide that personal assessment for folks where virtual care isn't sufficient," said Andrew MacDougall executive director of community health and seniors care with Health P.E.I.