Another nurse practitioner in Manitoba has started making house calls — and she believes there’s a movement afoot to get more private clinics running.
Cynthia Burton is driving to patients’ homes within a one-hour radius of Russell, where her practice, My Whole Health, is based.
"I’ve had multiple emails asking me questions about how I did it and which way I went," Burton said. "There is certainly a movement for sure, just in the short period that I’ve been incorporated, where I’ve made connections with multiple other NPs (nurse practitioners)."
Burton’s practice has escaped the scrutiny that targeted Timely Care, once it was reported in late March the private health-care business is operating in and around Winnipeg.
The NDP and Manitoba Nurses Union are among the critics who spoke out against Timely Care, opposing what they believe is a march toward privatized health care, "poaching" nurse practitioners from a public system in demand.
This fear was heightened earlier this year when the province elected to close one of six QuickCare clinics in Winnipeg because there aren’t enough nurse practitioners.
My Whole Health and Timely Care operate beyond the scope of the public health-care system and require clients to pay.
Burton understands the controversy, and respects those who hold differing views, but said she’s simply giving people a choice.
"Where we don’t have options right now, we’re providing options to patients," Burton said, explaining how she opened her practice to support patients with mobility issues and busy work and family schedules.
"The other piece of the equation is we have a health-care system that is far overburdened, we are not maintaining a successful public system right now," she said.
Burton doesn’t believe she is fostering a two-tiered health care system, because the standard of care is the same for public and private health-care providers.
"We are giving patients options," she said of My Whole Health, "and maybe, hopefully, lighten the load of our governments a little bit."
My Whole Health has been in operation since late December, a few months before Timely Care opened.
To the best of her knowledge, Burton was the first nurse practitioner in Manitoba to make house calls as her own corporation. It took three years of planning to get her service launched, she shared.
For now, Burton’s practice is small. She averages five patient visits a week, although she’s available for up to 36 hours a week, mainly during evenings and weekends. She also works as a nurse practitioner in the public health-care system.
Burton is willing to drive within an hour of Russell, stretching north to San Clara, east to Strathclair and south to Miniota.
She is trying to obtain her Saskatchewan licence as well, so her on-call business can operate in the province where the Langenburg resident lives, approximately 10 minutes from the Manitoba border.
The My Whole Health website lists a variety of services and fees. Among them, there’s a $55 cost for a physical and $35 price tag on a prescription refill. Mileage is an added cost.
Prior to launching her on-call practice, Burton was in regular contact with the College of Registered Nurses of Manitoba to ensure she’s following proper protocols, she said.
For privacy reasons, the college cannot confirm its dialogue with nurse practitioners, but in a statement said its role is to ensure all nurse practitioners meet the necessary standards of care.
In reference to My Whole Health, the provincial government, in a prepared statement, said the delivery of clinical services by nurse practitioners, within their scope of practice and on an uninsured basis, does not contravene the province’s legislation.
The Manitoba Nurses Union, meanwhile, opposes My Whole Health, arguing the business is essentially privatizing health care, said president Sandi Mowat.
"Cleary, the evidence actually shows that two-tiered health care systems actually hurt the public system," said Mowat, unaware of the service’s existence before being told last week. "There’s only so many health care professionals to go around."
Though objections exist, Burton will press on. There’s a need, the 36-year-old said, to accommodate patients from a variety of backgrounds, who do not find the public sector convenient.
"It’s quality care that fits into whatever your schedule is and whatever your issues are."
More details on the service are available at MyWholeHealth.ca.
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