On March 6, the Family Medicine Unit (FMU) at Regina Centre Crossing achieved a provincial first by hosting a COVID-19 vaccination clinic for its patients 80 and older.
“We hope to show that family practice medicine is a great place to immunize your own patients against COVID-19,” said Barb Beaurivage, the nurse practitioner at FMU.
Dr. Kathy Lawrence and Dr. Martin Heroux proposed the idea of a pilot family medicine vaccination clinic to Beaurivage and her colleague Erin Chard, a registered nurse and the clinic co-ordinator, in mid-February.
Because the vaccine was to be available the first week of March, Beaurivage and Chard had three weeks to plan the event. There were a lot of factors to consider. Who amongst their patients in this age group would be eligible and who, for health or other reasons, would not? How would they account for mobility issues? How would they ensure smooth patient flow? How many people would be needed to prepare the vaccine?
Although there were initially more questions than answers, Beaurivage and Chard’s chief consideration was the patient.
“The purpose of this day was to provide a client-centred approach,” said Chard. “We had patients as old as 102. Our plan was to move the patients infrequently. The vaccinator would go to the patient to administer the vaccine. The patient would wait during the required 15 minutes after receiving the vaccine in the same room.
“It wasn’t the most ideal model for getting people vaccinated quickly. It was more so focused on what is best for the patient.”
By the time immunization day arrived, all the pieces were in place. Twelve physicians, one resident and one casual nurse gave the injections. Two public health nurses and the clinic pharmacist reconstituted (i.e. diluted) the vaccine concentrate. Beaurivage oversaw administrative functions and drew up each dose. Chard resolved issues on the fly, co-ordinating patient and vaccine flow, overseeing the needs of patients and staff and liaising with public health. An administrative co-ordinator and seven support staff, along with four medical students, aided with patient screening and flow, room cleaning and other duties.
While the clinic was busy, the happy vibe was pervasive.
“Patients were overjoyed,” said Chard. “They view getting the vaccine as a life-changing opportunity. They were so grateful.”
Staff were happy, too.
“It feels good to do something so good,” said Cheryl Ramage, administrative services co-ordinator. “They said, ‘To think, you’re working on a Saturday for us.’ They were so appreciative.”
By day’s end, 281 FMU patients and 11 priority staff had been vaccinated.
“Every one of the patients booked came for their vaccine,” said Chard, noting they were expecting a normal no-show rate of five to 10 per cent.
These results prove that a family medicine practice is the right place to give vaccine, said both Beaurivage and Dr. Heroux.
“There is no doubt that patients felt more comfortable getting booked through their own family medicine clinic,” said Heroux. “They are comfortable with our staff and also with the layout of the clinic. I think there was a higher uptake from patients because the call for their vaccine came from their family physician's office – they knew it was important and supported by their care provider.”
Beaurivage said that while there’s an appetite to continue immunizing the clinic’s patient population, doing so will depend on access to the vaccine.
As the Saskatchewan Health Authority moves forward with vaccine roll out in the Regina area, other physician clinics will have the opportunity to express interest in offering COVID-19 vaccine clinics, as well.
Family Medicine Unit patients take part in a pilot COVID-19 vaccination clinic.