The Elite Wellness Medical Centre team includes Jenna Hammond, left, lead registered nurse; Lisa Parise, clinical director, and Bradley Steele, lead registered social worker. John Lappa/Sudbury StarJohn Lappa

Greater Sudbury’s first nurse practitioner-led private medical clinic is scheduled to open March 5.

Lisa Parise has worked in nursing for the last 25 years, during which time she’s watched more and more residents struggle to find a family doctor and resort to emergency rooms and walk-in clinics to access primary care. This lack of continuity of care, she says, leads to poor health outcomes and ultimately, a greater financial burden on the health care system.

“I’ve worked in the emergency department, and I’ve seen people waiting hours and hours just to get a medication refilled,” she said.

Parise has spent most of her career working in critical care, including during the pandemic, and has taught at Cambrian College and Laurentian University. Additionally, she’s worked in palliative care and with Indigenous populations, and most recently, in two nurse practitioner-led clinics, the last one located in Capreol before leaving due to the lack of provincial funding to hire her permanently. The Sudbury Star covered the situation at the Capreol clinic (tinyurl.com/ykvc22dp) earlier this month.

“I don’t want a two-tier system, but I am also sitting idle, not being able to help anyone,” said Parise. “I want to stay in primary care because this is where the need is.”

Parise, who is the nurse practitioner who will lead the clinic, said she already has more than 100 patients registered to access primary care through Elite Wellness Medical Centre, located on Lonsdale Avenue. She says most registered patients don’t have a family doctor and are between the ages of 40 and 80. 

“Ninety percent of them are without family physicians and in desperate need,” she said. “These are people with diabetes who need their insulin ordered. Some people have had heart failure. They have called me crying because they have nobody, and they have to go sit in emerg or the walk-in clinic to get their medications.”

While the medical clinic will specialize in primary care, including women’s and Indigenous health, a significant focus will be placed on mental health and addiction services. 

Parise’s team includes a registered nurse and a registered Indigenous social worker. She also recently obtained a two-year certificate in mental health and addictions from the University of Toronto and is hoping to bridge the gap with her knowledge and community partnerships she is working to establish in the field. 

Nurse practitioners are authorized to diagnose, order and interpret diagnostic tests and prescribe medication and other treatment. However, they cannot bill their services to OHIP like doctors, although advocates have lobbied the province to permit them to do so in order to help alleviate the strain on the health care system. While new patients to Parise’s clinic will be required to pay for services— between $125 to $60, depending on the reason for the visit — blood tests and diagnostic imaging will be covered under OHIP. Parise said she’s in discussion with some insurance providers to determine how some of the services she offers could be covered. Additionally, she is also ready and willing to pivot if the province decides to grant NPs the authority to bill their services through OHIP.

“I’m here to help and I want to do this for my community members,” she said.

Parise is opening the clinic with business partner, Joanne Bouchard, founder and executive director of the Adult and Youth Enrichment Centre, an organization that supports adults and youth with behavioural and mental health, which is located in the same building as the medical centre. The business partners already have their eyes set on expansion with the intent to replicate the care model in Val Caron. The women plan to open a second clinic there by the summer.

Parise said she wants to reiterate that she is not in support of a two-tier health care system; she just doesn’t see many other options to utilize her skills and help patients.

“I’m not against the public system at all,” said Parise, “it’s just that we are not allowed to bill under OHIP. The government hasn’t given us the okay to bill OHIP … Sault Ste Marie has received money to open a nurse practitioner-led clinic, which is fantastic because they are also in dire need, but we (Sudbury) didn’t get any funding.” 

Had the Capreol clinic received funding to hire a permanent position, she would have likely stayed there, she said.

Parise has seen many of her nurse practitioner colleagues leave primary care to work in the hospital system because of the promise of better wages, that is, once the three-year wage freeze was removed. While she realizes she may ruffle some feathers in the public health care system by offering privatized services, she said many of her nurse practitioner colleagues are waiting with bated breath. She’s also hoping her new venture puts pressure on the province to better fund her profession.

“This is why I decided to do this,” she said. “Maybe the government will see we are just trying to help out as much as we can. If they decide to put us on the OHIP billing schedule, we will go over to that in a heartbeat.”

For more information about Elite Wellness Medical Centre, visit elitewellnessmc.com.

The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government.

sud.editorial@sunmedia.ca

By Laura Stradiotto, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Feb 21, 2024 at 16:27

This item reprinted with permission from   The Sudbury Star    Sudbury, Ontario
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