Coun. Sandra O’Connor is concerned about the lack of a nurse practitioner in town to look after residents who are not members of the Niagara North Family Health Team.
O’Connor raised the issue at a recent committee-of-the-whole meeting, saying she had been asked by residents whether that role would be filled. However, she was quickly shut down, told there are two nurse practitioners in town, Erin Jarvis at the former hospital offices, and Jane Carson in Virgil.
Doing some follow-up research, she realized there is some confusion about those two nurse practitioners, who only look after patients who are members of the family health team and have doctors in town.
Those who don’t were in the past able to see a third nurse practitioner who had an office in the former hospital building, but who was employed by Niagara Health, not the family health team. She could see anyone on a walk-in basis, including those who didn’t have doctors in town, as well as visitors, but she went on maternity leave and didn’t return. Niagara Health has never filled that position, O’Connor explained.
At Monday’s council meeting, O’Connor did her best to clear up the confusion.
“There is a waiting list to get a doctor in NOTL, and to have access to their nurse practitioner, and there are over three million tourists a year that visit our town,” she said. While some council members were confused because they regularly see Jarvis or Carson, that’s because they’re rostered members of the family health team, O’Connor said.
“We need additional medical services in NOTL.”
She brought up the issue in the first place because NOTL pays a tax levy to the Niagara Health system, primarily as funding the St. Catharines hospital site.
“To my knowledge,” said O’Connor, “NHS has not informed the community of the withdrawal of this service. There is nothing on the NHS website about this service. We pay a specific tax to the Niagara Health service, but we don’t have any services in town.”
What is the town getting for its money, she wondered, and while health care is not the jurisdiction of municipalities, and should not be providing health care, “we should advocate to ensure that our town has the appropriate health care infrastructure that we need to thrive.”
Municipalities have a role to play in advocating for the health-care needs of their community, she added. “This is what we need to do.”
O’Connor told councillors she will be making a motion next meeting regarding municipal advocacy for the restoration of the nurse practitioner formerly provided by the Niagara Health system.