It started with a general conversation. A healthcare team from Meadow Lake had been seeing patients drive 50 kilometres from Green Lake for every physician visit, test and follow-up visit and thought there had to be a better way to deliver care.
The Northern Village of Green Lake is a Métis community with unique healthcare needs located 30 minutes east of Meadow Lake. Residents of Green Lake also face a problem that plagues many communities in Northern Saskatchewan – the access to transportation to travel to medical appointments.
From L-R: RN Dean Sinclair and Dr. Leani Loots
Dr. Leani Loots, a family physician from Meadow Lake, was part of the team that brought forward their plan to take services into the community.
“We as physicians see the impact poor access to care has on these patients,” says Dr. Loots. “We saw patients falling through the cracks with missed appointments and follow-ups and thought there has to be a better way.”
The Meadow Lake team then put forth a proposal to healthcare leaders from the former Keewatin Yatthé Regional Health Authority. Richard Petit, the SHA Executive Director for Primary Health Care Northwest, saw merit in the plan, especially under the Saskatchewan Health Authority’s new organizational structure. They brought together community leaders from Green Lake and the healthcare team from Meadow Lake and a plan was developed to bring the doctors to the patients, instead of the other way around.
“I always thought that Green Lake is one of our communities that would benefit from the SHA’s goal of providing care to the clients as close to home as possible,” says Petit. “This new plan particularity benefits patients with chronic conditions, home care clients, pregnant women and others who make frequent trips away from their community to access care.”
Petit believes the elimination of the boundaries from the previous Regional Health Authority system was instrumental to the success of this initiative. Under the previous system, patients were able to access care in Meadow Lake, but it was difficult to formulate a localized plan that would cross the boundaries of the various RHAs to serve the needs of the community. Green Lake was situated in a very unique geographic position under the boundaries of the former RHA system – it was part of the former Keewatin Yatthé Regional Health Authority, with the nearest physician services in that RHA in Ile a la Crosse, which is about 175 kilometers north. In actuality, the nearest physicians were located 50 kilometers to the east, in Meadow Lake; however, Meadow Lake was situated within the Prairie North Regional Health Authority. Services were also available in Big River, which is 75 kilometers to the west of Green Lake, but that community was part of the Prince Albert Parkland Regional Health Authority.
For many in Green Lake, the once a month visit by the Nurse Practitioner from Ile a la Crosse was their best chance to access care.
The first visit by Dr. Loots and RN Dean Sinclair occurred on November 14t at the Green Lake Clinic. All available appointments were booked well in advance, supporting the move to bring services to the community. Dr. Loots and other healthcare providers from Meadow Lake have committed to visit the community at least once a month, and more often if there is demand for services.
Patients were surveyed following their first visit with the team at the clinic and the feedback will be used by the healthcare working group to enhance the program.