Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside is as tough as it gets in the city. and the perils of day-to-day life in this impoverished neighbourhood are only increased by the limited access to essential services like quality, consistent healthcare. For at-risk women the challenge is especially great, where a combination of fear and mistrust causes them to have little or no contact with the medical services they desperately need, let alone be in the care of a family practitioner.
It was this gap in healthcare for women living in the Downtown Eastside that inspired BC Women’s to work in partnership with a community-based organization to develop BC Women’s nurse practitioner clinic – a women’s-only healthcare clinic located in the very heart of the community.
“We’re a low-barrier clinic – we don’t require women to have a care card to see us,” says Lenore Riddell, a BC Women’s nurse practitioner who, with her two colleagues, provides service five afternoons a week at the centre. “The site is very welcoming – it’s a safe place to come.”
BC Women’s nurse practitioners at the centre deliver healthcare to a large, diverse population of local women, the majority of whom are impacted by poverty, mental illness and a struggle with addictions. They provide many of the same services as family physicians, including writing prescriptions, scheduling tests and making medical referrals. Unlike at most walk-in clinics, appointments here are usually 30 minutes, allowing nurse practitioners to give their patients the one-on-one attention they need to discuss complex health issues. More importantly, the program gives nurse practitioners the time they need to build relationships and provide their patients with vital continuity of care.
With the support of the BC Women’s Hospital Foundation, two new clinical exam rooms, generously furnished and equipped by Cadillac Fairview, will double the amount of treatment space, allowing nurse practitioners to offer services to more of the people who need them most.
“With the new space we’ll even have a disabled accessible bed and opportunity to expand service,” says Riddell.
For women living in the Downtown Eastside even the simple necessities of life are few and far between. That’s why the centre has become such a welcome oasis of calm and caring, delivering comfort and health services to those who need it most.
By J.K. Malmgren