Pilot project becomes integral service to needy

What started as a pilot project to provide basic health care to people in Red Deer’s downtown core is growing into an integral part of the services available to a vulnerable part of the city’s population.

What started as a pilot project to provide basic health care to people in Red Deer’s downtown core is growing into an integral part of the services available to a vulnerable part of the city’s population.

The street nurse program, located at Turning Point at 4611 50th Ave., is a Red Deer Primary Care Network program that started last September.

Nurse Practitioner Marlee MacDonald offers clinic hours from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, doing everything from wound care and management of chronic diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension, to certain lab tests and sexually transmitted infection testing. She also helps people navigate the social and health-care services they need in the community.

MacDonald has served on average 71 patients a month, with twice as many men as women served. More than half of her clients — 53 per cent — have been between the ages of 41 and 59, 23 per cent between 25 and 40 and 16 per cent were between 18 and 24. Eight per cent were of an unknown age.

She has been impressed by how the different agencies and groups in the downtown have been willing to work together.

The street nurse program, in conjunction with the Central Alberta AIDS Network Society, has done a series of “tune-ups” during each season of the year, giving people access to a variety of agencies and services, ranging from free clothing to medical care. MacDonald said the tune-ups have also helped the program gain better exposure to the people who might want to use it.

Her clientele can include the homeless, people dealing with drug addictions or mental health issues, and those without Alberta Health Care coverage.

“The people we see down here, it’s just been so long since they’ve trusted a health-care worker. I feel like it is an opportunity to get them on track again with their health,” MacDonald said.

“There are definitely challenges every day, but when you do see some successes, it’s pretty rewarding down here.”

She said working in the nurse practitioner role has enhanced her love of nursing by allowing her to work more autonomously. She also appreciates being part of the Red Deer Primary Care Network, which she said has brought innovative ideas and initiatives to the city and helped enhance primary care in Red Deer.

The street nurse program has moved from a pilot project to a regular part of the Red Deer Primary Care Network programs.

MacDonald hopes that now that the program is better established it will be able to grow in coming years, with it continuing to be well accessed by the vulnerable population in downtown Red Deer.

sobrien@bprda.wpengine.com

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