No ongoing funding for pregnancy triage clinic serving hundreds of patients

Pregnancy clinic strapped

The First Steps Early Pregnancy Triage Clinic is still looking for full-time funding after providing care to nearly 200 pregnant patients in its first three months.

Joanna Norman, head of midwifery at Royal Inland Hospital and clinic lead, said the clinic helps to streamline the referral process for pregnant patients.

She said the clinic came out of a need for a clear pathway to prenatal care in Kamloops and surrounding communities.

“It is meant to be a first point of contact for people who are newly pregnant. It does not require a referral from a physician or nurse practitioner,” said Norman.

“We have that triage focus so that they can get all of their care kind of packaged up in that referral to [the Thompson Region Family Obstetrics clinic] or sometimes to an obstetrician or another specialist, whatever is happening in their pregnancy.”

Norman said the clinic offers a variety of services including physical exams, blood pressure tests, pap tests, midwifery care, childbirth classes and will order bloodwork and ultrasounds.

She said the pregnancy clinic averages around 18 patients a week.

“A lot of times especially if they've never been pregnant before, they just don't know where to turn. They don't know what information they should be getting,” said Norman.

“In this way, they can just come here and get the care they need. We have in our clinic, the team is two family doctors, four nurse practitioners and four registered midwives and we all work together.”

Norman said the pregnancy clinic is funded through a six month grant from the Foundation for the Advancement of Family Medicine, providing around $200,000.

“That funding comes to an end in March of 2024, so we're already in conversations with Interior Health right now to talk about what does ongoing funding look like to make sure that this program stays sustainable and accessible for people.”

Lisa Steele, a pathologist at Royal Inland Hospital and chair of the Hospital Authority Medical Advisory Committee, said the clinic helps to get pregnant patients referrals to an already “stressed system.”

“What the emergency department was seeing at Royal Inland was a spike in newly pregnant women who were coming in,” said Steele.

“In your pregnancy, the downstream sorts of things that you're going to need for care, the talk about genetic testing, like all that kind of stuff can start and happen without needing a family doc to get you into the system.”

Norman said the clinic will provide early care and refer patients to their next steps, but there could be bottlenecks down the road.

“If the next step can't take them, then that is going to become a problem,” Norman said.

“Again, that's where it bottlenecks again, right? So we're hoping that the capacity issues in the other services like TRFO are going to be find solutions.”

Norman said the clinic has yet to refer a patient to a service out of town, but said bottlenecks could force such a move in the future.

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