A new health clinic catering to the needs of refugees promises to introduce newcomers to Nova Scotia’s medical system in their own language.
About 30 people — many involved in the project and some recent refugees themselves — attended the grand opening of Halifax’s Refugee Health Clinic Wednesday.
“This grand opening represents new ways of coming together,” said Janet Knox, CEO of the Nova Scotia Health Authority.
“No one wants to be a refugee, they have to be a refugee,” added Knox.
Growing in operation
The clinic moved to its current location at 6090 Mumford Rd in May.
Originally, it opened in a small space inside the office of the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS). It operated just one day per week.
Over the past year, the clinic has partnered with Primary Health Care and Public Health, the Nova Scotia Health Authority, the Halifax Refugee Clinic and local family physicians.
Today, the Refugee Health Clinic is located within a regular medical clinic in the Mumford Professional Centre. There is one room dedicated to the service. The clinic operates three days a week and provides services such as vaccinations, chronic disease management and routine primary care. Patients are supported by the clinic for two years, during their transition period to finding a family medical practitioner.
Services are available for many different kinds of refugees: government-assisted refugees, privately sponsored refugees, as well as refugee claimants.
According to ISANS, approximately 200 government-assisted refugees come to Halifax annually.
A team effort
There are four part-time family physicians who treat the patients, as well as one registered nurse and a few administration staff.
Interpreters are also a crucial part of the operation, and are provided based on patients’ needs by Nova Scotia Interpreting Services. Families are often treated as a group, so that the appropriate language interpreter can work with more than one patient at a time.
The days of operation depend entirely on the scheduling of physicians, patients and interpreters, so it varies each week.
Dr. Tim Holland has been a physician at the clinic since it started up. He describes the experience as “fantastic and a struggle.”
Holland explained that he makes about an eighth of the pay he does during regular medical practitioner work. It’s basically volunteer work, he said.
The program is funded by Nova Scotia Health and is the only health clinic in Halifax for refugee support specifically.