Street nurse service answers need

The downtown street nurse program in Red Deer could continue until at least 2012.

Street nurse Marlee MacDonald

The downtown street nurse program in Red Deer could continue until at least 2012.

The pilot project, operating out of Turning Point at 4611 50th Ave., started last October to improve health care access for people who may be homeless, dealing with drug addictions or mental health issues, and have difficulty getting the services they need.

“We’re pretty happy with the results,” said Dr. Lauralee Dukeshire, with Red Deer Primary Care Network.

“Business is steadily increasing. It’s great. They’re getting care they just weren’t getting before,” said. Dukeshire.

Red Deer Primary Care Network has budgeted money to pay the nurse practitioner’s salary until March 31, 2012.

Central Albert AIDS Network Society is also committed to the program and is providing the space until at least the end of the year.

For now, Alberta Health Services is still supplying the medical supplies and equipment.

Nurse practitioner Marlee MacDonald can order diagnostics, prescribe some medication and make referrals.

She can help patients navigate through the health-care system to get needed services, as well as provide wound care.

Since December, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted disease and pregnancy testing has also been available to clients.

“Testing is a big priority for public health and (CAANS) in relation to the work they do and what they’re seeing on the street,” MacDonald said.

Protocols are now being finalized to provide free over-the-counter topical creams and medicine for pain relief, allergies, coughs, bowel problems, lice and scabies.

“It will be a huge step to offer treatment without prescribed medications,” said MacDonald, who expects the medicine will be available by summer.

About 30 clients drop by each week at the office, which is open three days a week: Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Without an Alberta Health Card, it’s difficult for people on the street to get medical attention unless they go to the hospital emergency department.

MacDonald said emergency staff are also becoming familiar with the program.

“There’s been a nice liaison. I’m getting direct referrals to follow up with some folks that are being discharged from emergency.”

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