December 2, 2023

Residents formed a long line Sunday morning in Lower Sackville as they waited for a mobile health clinic to open its doors.

The pop-up clinic rolled into the region on the weekend to help Nova Scotians who do not have access to primary care and to alleviate pressure on packed emergency rooms.

There are nearly 130,000 people in the province on the family doctor waitlist.

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Graeme Kohler, director of primary health care in the central zone for Nova Scotia Health, says it’s not unusual to see people waiting outside the clinic, waiting for its doors to open.

“We’re seeing people line up each day,” Kohler says. “We’re trying to open up as early as we can in the day and keep the doors open so people are not out in the cold.”

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The van was parked in front of Cobequid Community Health Centre over the weekend. Patients were treated inside the health centre as the model has moved to indoor settings due to the cold weather.

Graeme Kohler is the Director of Primary Health Care for the Central Zone.

Skye Bryden-Blom / Global News

Kohler says demand has been high for the pop-up clinic in the province since it launched late last year.

“In general, we’ve seen about 90 patients per day that we run the mobile clinics,” Kohler explains. “We’ve done 35 different mobile clinics across the province — well, 35 plus — and within those, we’ve seen about 90 patients per day per clinic.”

He estimates that amounts to about 3,500 patients or more who have received treatment.

“Unfortunately, we have a number of people who don’t have a primary care provider, or we have people with a primary care provider struggling to get in within the timeframe that they need,” Kohler says.

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He says the clinics allow people to get the same treatment that they would receive from a family doctor and skip a trip to the emergency room.

Staff with the mobile clinic, including doctors, nurses, and paramedics, treat non-urgent issues like a cough or cold, sore throats, and ear aches. They can also manage prescriptions.

Kohler says the Sackville site is especially helpful as it’s right next door to the Cobequid emergency room.

“We see it goes both ways. It’s actually really nice,” Kohler says.

“They can send patients to us, which happens regularly throughout the day. There are times when we see patients that are presenting to us and we say, ‘Oh well, you’d actually be more appropriate for the emergency department,’ and we walk them down and make sure they’re sorted out.”

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He’s heard that ER staff are pleased with the help the clinic is providing. Kohler says it’s one piece of the puzzle to alleviate pressure on the health care system.

He encourages Nova Scotians to consider all the options available, like virtual care and pharmacies along with mobile clinics.

According to Kohler, you’ll be seeing the van parked outside the Cobequid Community Health Centre for the next several weekends as part of plans to streamline the process for mobile care.

The pop-up clinic will be stationed at the Sackville site on weekends from now until the end of March.

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