Queen’s Nursing School is supporting newborns in partnership with Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox, and Addington (KFL&A) Public Health and the Kingston Community Health Center.
The Well Baby Care Clinic, which opened its doors on Apr. 27, will run for one year out of 221 Portsmouth Avenue. The clinic focuses on identifying health risk factors and intervening early to ensure positive health outcomes for infants in the Kingston area.
“Newborns and young children are extremely vulnerable, and they really need ongoing health care. It’s essential for good health outcomes,” Roger Pilon, clinic project lead and professor at Queen’s Nursing School, said, in an interview with The Journal.
The Well Baby Care Clinic is working to break cycles of negative health outcomes for families in the Kingston area by identifying infants at risk for Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). ACEs include traumatic experiences which occur during a child’s early years, such a violence or a home environment where substance abuse is present, Pilon explained.
“We know that children who are exposed to adverse [events] early on in life, go on also themselves to develop chronic illnesses, substance abuse disorders, mental health problems when they get older. If you can address it early, you can prevent this future,” Pilon said.
Unattached newborns were rostered at the Kingston Community Health Center, but the center no longer has this capacity, leaving many without care. For Medical Officer of Health at KFL&A Public Health Piotr Oglaza, the underlining problem across Canada is a lack of access to primary healthcare.
“Locally, we found this concern particularly related to newborn babies,” Oglaza said in an interview with The Journal.
According to Oglaza, the lack of primary care for infants means parents run to the emergency room to access care for their newborns, adding additional strain to the health care system. While the Well Baby clinic is not meant to replace family doctors, the clinic can offset the need.
The clinic will see 10-12 infants per week, and provide services such as monitoring developmental targets, educating and advising parents, and connecting families to specialized health services in Kingston. If a newborn is struggling with weight gain, the clinic will identify the problem, referring the parents to a lactation or nutrition consultant.
“There’s a gap in care, and the clinic isn’t solving the issue of this gap,” Oglaza said. “We can do our part in trying to relieve some of the immediate pressure on the healthcare system.”
With an overstretched healthcare system, KFL&A Public Health’s partnership with Queen’s is important to the clinic’s success. Staffed with Queen’s nurse practitioners, the clinic is providing a hands-on teaching opportunity for nursing students and closing the health care gap.
“None of the agencies would be able to do it alone, but together we can really make it happen,” Oglaza said.
The gap in health care is specifically felt by Kingston’s growing population of immigrants and refugees, who face barriers when accessing health care in Canada. While the Well Baby Care Clinic is not specifically directed towards marginalized populations, Pilon believes these communities will be impacted organically.
“[Newcomers to Canada] may not be familiar with the local services. There may be language barriers, or they may have difficulty accessing food [for their babies],” Pilon said.
The Well Baby nurse practitioners will have access to a dial-in translation service, enabling them to communicate with patients whose primary language is not English. The Portsmouth location was chosen because it is accessible using public transport, and the clinic will have free parking.
The clinic’s goal is to reduce inequity in early childhood care between families in Kingston who have access to primary care, and families who don’t.
“Within about four to six weeks we created this clinic from start to finish,” Pilon said. “It’s amazing what you can create in a short period of time with the right people.”
health care, KFL&A Public Health, Queen’s School of Nursing
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