Clinic offers new hope for patients without family doctors

Clinic opens at Rouge Valley Health System

West Hill seniors Tina and Dominic Marcelli lost their family doctor of 42 years in September when the physician moved out of the area, "He asked us to go with him but we live in Scarborough. There is absolutely no way, there is absolutely not a chance," Tina Marcelli said.

For the past several weeks, she has made dozens of attempts to secure a new family doctor but can't find one taking on new patients.

Marcelli thought she had a lead on a female physician, something she desperately wants, but spent a frustrating month getting the run-around before finally giving up.

Earlier this month, she ended up at the emergency department of Rouge Valley Health System with a blood infection.

She noticed a sign advertising the hospital's new Unattached Patient Health Assessment and Referral Centre Clinic, which she and her husband have joined.

The Central East Local Health Integration Network (LHIN), which oversees health care planning from Scarborough to east of Peterborough, is Ontario's first LHIN to introduce the idea, according to lead nurse practitioner Samantha Dalby,

The first clinic opened in the community of Bethany, west of Peterborough, in September.

The Scarborough clinic opened this month.

The clinics hope to attract people who don't have family physicians.

While those people may be forced to turn to walk-in clinics or emergency departments when faced with a sudden illness or crisis, their health is not monitored on an ongoing basis.

That means they could be walking around with undiagnosed and untreated illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and kidney failure, Dalby said.

They may only seek medical care when their conditions have worsened and become an emergency, she said.

"What we know about the population in Ontario, if people aren't attached to a doctor or a nurse practitioner, they probably aren't getting these types of (regular medical) tests," Dalby said.

"Most disease are preventable or treatable (if caught early). If you go in for a Pap test (for example), we know we can detect abnormalities early in the process. If it's not picked up, what can happen is cervical cancer, which can kill the patient. If they're not attached, they don't have access and nobody tells them the importance of (the test)."

Patients who come to the clinics will undergo tests such as blood work, blood pressure, Pap tests, urine and stool samples and electrocardiograms,

Not only will the screening uncover potential diseases, enabling health care workers to refer patients for follow up care, but Dalby said the tests makes patients more attractive to family doctors because background work has already been completed.

Sam Berman, director of the clinics, said Scarborough is a natural choice to host a clinic.

"From our point of view, in Scarborough, there is a lot of high-risk populations there. We have a lot of diabetes and cardiovascular disease," he said.

"They show up in the ER. We want to get to them when they are manageable."

After undergoing several tests arranged by the clinic, Marcelli is hoping she and her husband will soon find a new family doctor.

"I hope so," said Marcelli, adding she is prepared to jump through any hoops to secure a physician.

"It is not OK but in my position, if I have to go from here to there, I will do it because I need a doctor. I need a doctor so bad. I'm almost 70-years-old. I'm an old woman. You need a doctor. I'm a very optimistic person but I'm really losing it."

For more information or to book an appointment at the Scarborough or Bethany Clinics, please call 1-877-578-1541.

Reposted with permission from The Scarborough Mirror - Reporter Lisa Queen