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Emergency Department

Ten years and counting for the PMH Mobile Clinic

Prairie Mountain Health’s (PMH) Mobile Clinic has passed a very notable milestone; February 2024 marked ten years since the primary care bus first hit the road! The Mobile Clinic was the first of its kind in the Province, and although some of the faces and places have changed over the years, there’s one constant: providing access to services where some barriers remain.

On average, the PMH Mobile Clinic (primary care bus) travels 44,000 kilometres annually. This is roughly equivalent to touring across Canada (east to west) nearly seven times annually. Over the past decade, approximately 440,000 total kilometres have been travelled by the Mobile Clinic. That’s certainly a lot of distance covered and patients seen since its implementation.

The Mobile Clinic is staffed by a Registered Nurse, Nurse Practitioner, and Driver who provides administrative support. This team works closely with the staff at the health centres in each community to ensure that individuals’ needs are met.

Currently, the Indigenous communities of Birdtail Sioux First Nation, Ebb and Flow First Nation, O-Chi-Chak-Ko-Sipi First Nation and Keeseekoowenin First Nation receive regular visits. The communities of Canupawakpa Dakota First Nation, Skownan First Nation, and Waterhen also receive regular Nurse Practitioner services from Mobile Clinic providers.

“A Nurse Practitioner can do some of the same things as a family doctor. They can do physical exams, diagnose and treat diseases and other health conditions, and prescribe medication,” says Glenda Short, PMH Regional Lead of Community and Continuing Care. “This allows the Mobile Clinic to provide many services, including regular sexually transmitted blood-borne infection testing, which offers clients a private and confidential environment for testing and treatment.” 

Client, community and staff feedback have shaped changes over the past decade. The Mobile Clinic saw greater success by visiting the same communities consistently rather than more communities on a less frequent basis. Therefore, visits currently occur to the same four communities on a consistent schedule. 

“Accessing primary health care services close to home is important for all Manitobans,” said Manitoba Health, Seniors and Healthy Living Minister Uzoma Asagwara. “I would like to thank the staff who operate the Mobile Clinic for the great work that they do and their dedication to providing quality and timely health care for residents of Prairie Mountain Health Region.”

Appointment at the Mobile Bus in Birdtail Sioux

Operating a fully functioning primary care clinic on wheels is challenging. 

“Adverse weather conditions, staffing shortages, and internet disruptions are a few that can play a role in the clinic’s day-to-day functions,” stated Ashley Vandepoele, PMH Health Services Manager whose team oversees the initiative.

During the heightened stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare systems had to adapt rapidly, and the Mobile Clinic was no exception. 

“The Mobile Clinic shifted to involve providing vaccines, doing testing, redeploying staff, as well as physically attending pop-up vaccine locations in campsites and mall parking lots for visibility,” Short said. 

Added Vandepeole: “The pandemic also provided space for innovation. One learning was that virtual care could be utilized to meet client needs. This has altered and shaped how the Mobile Clinic functions on days when cancellations are inevitable due to adverse weather and road conditions. Rather than not providing service at all due to the Clinic’s inability to get to the community, we now offer services by telephone on many of those days.”

The Mobile Clinic strives to be an inclusive, safe environment for all to access. PMH regularly welcomes nursing students and physician assistants to participate in their learning journey. 

A recent grant approval through Health Care Excellence Canada’s Strengthening Primary Care in Northern Rural and Remote Communities will pave the way for an innovation on the Mobile Clinic. Point-of-care testing equipment is being purchased to support diabetes and renal screening in a number of the communities that the Mobile Clinic serves.

PMH remains proud of the continued success of the Clinic and, with its health partners and stakeholders, collectively strives to enhance services within the large geographic region continually. 

We’ll see what the next ten years bring!

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