Minto supports request for additional funding for more nurse practitioners

MINTO – Town council has invited the local health care professional recruiting committee to provide input for a proposed meeting with provincial health ministry officials on solutions to a shortage of primary health care providers in the region.

Chair Shirley Borges, recruiter Alison Armstrong and nurse practitioner Jodi Colwill attended the March 7 council meeting to provide an update on recruitment activities and related issues.

Borges told council “the past year has been a tough one.

“About this time last year we had nine physicians in Minto-Mapleton and currently, we have eight,” she pointed out.

The departure of one local physician in June of 2022 left the community with eight physicians for about 15,000 patients.

Borges said about 1,000 of those patients were recent transitioned, “most of them going to one of our nurse practitioners, one of three in Minto and Mapleton.

“I think today it seems appropriate that we have Jodi Colwill, one of our nurse practitioners with the family health team and a really strong nursing and nurse practitioner advocate, to provide a bit of an update.”

Colwill told council that adding nurse practitioners to the roster of local health care professionals could help mitigate an ongoing physician shortage if funding were available.

“The reality is that we don’t have a nurse practitioner recruitment problem,” she explained.

“We have a nurse practitioner currently filling a (maternity) leave who would love to work here afterwards.

“We don’t have any funding for more nurse practitioners.”

Colwill said the recruitment committee would like council to contact local MPP Matthew Rae “to advocate, from a municipality standpoint, that there is a viable solution here to help our community access primary care, and it’s nurse practitioners, and we need to increase the funding for those positions.”

Colwill also pointed out expanded utilization of nurse practitioners could provide additional resources for long-term care facilities, reducing the need to access high-cost nursing from temporary agencies

“The government has approved nurse practitioner attendings in long-term care, meaning that the nurse practitioner would be the primary care provider for those patients,” she pointed out.

“There are long-term care positions for nurse practitioners currently open in Minto, Mapleton and north Wellington.

“And the reality is, the government severely underfunded those positions … and therefore are requiring agency nursing and that became a huge issue during the pandemic.”

Part of the problem, said Colwill, is that the agencies nurses “are not local people.

“Those are people that are often coming in from the city. It’s not a sustainable practice,” she noted.

“That’s where I say we have a unique position with the family health team. Our nurse practitioner students come, they train in a team-based model. We’re very collaborative, we’re very supportive, versus those (agency) positions are isolating. They don’t have the supports.

“And so it’s not a desirable position. And so that’s the part that’s really frustrating for us, is we really have an opportunity to employ these people to answer the needs of our community and we don’t have funding. It makes no sense.”

Mayor Dave Turton pointed out the Town of Minto and Township of Mapleton are seeking a joint delegation with Ontario Minister of Health and Long-Term Care Sylvia Jones at the Ontario Good Roads Association annual convention in April.

“Normally when we go to these things, we do two presentations. We present our issues and then we give a solution,” said Turton.

“So, in this particular case, we have both. We have an issue, we have a solution that’s going to – you talked about funding – it’s going to cost a little bit of money.

“I guess it’s a quite a bit of money. Depends how you look at it.”

The mayor said CAOs of the two municipalities are working on preparation for the delegation and could use input on specific talking points from the committee.

“We’d be more than happy to help you review your presentation so that you’re well-armed for your 15 minute …. meeting with the minister to make sure the messages are clear,” said Borges.

“And I think it’s really important that we do come with some solutions, not just problems. And I think she will receive those very well.”

Council approved a motion to send a letter to the local MPP requesting funding support for nurse practitioners.