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Monday, May 07, 2018

Provincial Funding to Expand Healthcare for Newcomers and East Londoners

Newcomers to Canada and people living in London's east end are the targets of a healthcare expansion announced Wednesday.

The South West Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) is getting a $1.3 million funding boost from the province, money that is being used in turn to expand the London InterCommunity Health Centre (LIHC).

"The expansion of the primary care team at the London InterCommunity Health Centre will help improve timely access to family physicians linked to a network of health care providers all working together to offer an integrated, broad scope of services to patients and their families," said LHIN vice president Dr. Cathy Faulds in a news release.

Scott Courtice, executive director for the LIHC, explained that his organization is directing the money at two main projects. Here's how the projects will work, and what they mean for Londoners.

1. A health clinic for Canadian newcomers, which is located at London's Cross-Cultural Learner Centre (CCLC) and run by LIHC.Courtice said his team has run a clinic out of the CCLC for the past few years, ever since the first influx of Syrian refugees in London.

The clinic does early health assessments for newcomers and helps get their medication in order when they first arrive.

Dr. Allison Henderson, who works in the clinic alongside a registered nurse and a nurse practitioner, says that her team has been limited in the level of care that they can provide.

"What we're excited about is this extra funding that allows us to expand our services at the CCLC clinic from two days a week to potentially five," said Dr. Henderson.

Dr. Henderson said her team will also be able to follow up with clients for the first six months to a year after they arrive in Canada, to make sure that all of their immunizations and treatments for infectious diseases are up to date.

"This will allow us to make sure that when they go on to find family doctors or nurse practitioners in the community, a lot of the immediate medical difficulties have been sorted and it's a lot easier to accept them," she said.

Valerian Marochko, executive director for the CCLC , said that better care for refugees when they first arrive is a smart use o healthcare dollars.

"Sometimes chronic conditions go unaddressed, and in the long run it's a much higher cost to our system," he said.

2. A program that will help connect patients in eat London will 'allied' health professionals, such as social workers, respiratory therapists and physiotherapists.

About a quarter of the patients at Dr. Nathalie Lovesey's family practice are newcomers to Canada.

Just about every day, Dr. Lovesey says she meets with patients who need some kind of service that she can't provide by herself — often mental health or social work services.

"That's a regular thing for sure in family medicine, but especially with the newcomer population," said Dr. Lovesey. "They would benefit from a multidisciplinary team approach."

Practices like Dr. Lovesey's are the target of the LIHC's second project, which will help connect family doctors with 'allied health professionals.'

Although Dr. Lovesey works out of the city's south end, the allied health expansion is going to focus on East London, where Courtice said people have the lowest rates of access to team-based healthcare in the city.

The allied healthcare expansion will help east London doctors connect patients with other types of health professionals, ranging from social workers to physiotherapists.

These specialists would either see patients in their family doctor's office, or at a new satellite office that the LIHC plans to open in the city's east end.

All in all, Courtice said he plans to hire 'nine or 10' nurses, nurse practitioners and other health professionals for the project.

"It's a little bit unique for an organization like us to support people that don't necessarily work directly with us, but it's a way for us to do a better job of meeting the needs of people who need a higher level of care," she said.
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