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For Linda*, an 80-year-old senior with complex medical needs, finding the Mission Attachment Clinic after her previous family doctor moved away was like “being adrift in the ocean on an inner tube, when suddenly someone shows up and throws you a line.”
The last time she was without a family doctor, it took Linda more than eight months to find a new one. She was nervous about her ability to find a new doctor this time and worried the full spectrum of her needs could not be properly addressed at walk-in clinics. After learning of the attachment clinic’s opening from a newspaper ad placed by the Mission Division of Family Practice’s A GP for Me team, she scheduled an appointment. Linda was both surprised and thrilled when the doctor she saw offered to take her on as a patient in his practice.
In its first year of operation, the clinic in Mission attached more than 1,100 patients to local family doctors.
“Every doctor that’s worked at the clinic has taken on new patients when they’ve had room in their practice,” says Dr. Carol Pomery, the Division’s Board Chair and one of the doctors responsible for bringing the clinic to life in July 2015. “That’s the goal of our clinic, to find doctors for patients that don’t have one. Our ability to do that depends on doctors’ capacity, so in the meantime, patients are attached to our clinic and supported by the team who works here.”
Located across the street from Mission Memorial Hospital in the same building as the Division’s offices, the clinic fills a gap long identified as a priority by Mission doctors. Many of the region’s residents were having trouble finding a regular doctor, particularly vulnerable patients such as those with mental health challenges or complex care needs.
“The A GP for Me funding gave us the ability to address a real need in our community,” says Dr Peter Barnsdale, a Division board member who was also instrumental in creating the clinic. “A lot of people can’t get the depth of care they need in a traditional 10-minute appointment, especially if you’re seeing them for the first time. Our appointments are longer so we can take the time to get to know our patients and the health situations.”
The clinic is staffed by a team of up to nine doctors, representing nearly one-third of the region’s GPs.
“All our doctors work here in addition to their regular practices,” explains Dr. Pomeroy. “They sign-up for the shifts that fit with their schedules. We’re a small community and the willingness to pitch in has been fantastic.”
“It’s deeply satisfying to do something you didn’t have the resources to do before,” says Dr. Barnsdale. “It’s something doctors can be proud of, operated through a real team effort.”
It’s an effort appreciated by the Mission residents the clinic was created to help.
“Patients walk by my office to exit the clinic,” says Shona Brown, the Division’s Executive Director. “People are always stopping in, telling me how grateful they are for the care they get in the clinic. Sometimes, they’re moved to tears they’re so relieved to be looked after. It’s really making a positive difference in people’s lives.”