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New COPD clinic is open

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(L-R) Physical therapist Jenna Lesy, patient Joyce MacDonald, dietitian Erin Bowers, pharmacist Shannon Clarke, nurse practitioner Lois Coffey and pharmacy student Brayden LeClair were on hand for the grand opening of the COPD clinic at St. Joseph's Hospital.

The chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) clinic at St. Joseph's Hospital in Estevan has been well-used since it opened in November.

Representatives from the hospital and the Sun Country Health Region celebrated the grand opening of the clinic on January 25. The clinic is open once a month, and according to Candace Kopec, the health region's regional manager of chronic disease management, people spend two to two-and-a-half hours at the clinic.

“We are quite thorough and comprehensive in the care,” said Kopec.

They hope to have five people visit the Estevan clinic each month. 

The COPD clinic is an example of team-based care at the hospital, Kopec said. It involves at least two health care professionals working together to provide care to a patient. At the COPD clinics, a nurse practitioner, a physical therapist, a pharmacist and a dietitian offer education on healthy living and managing COPD.

“Instead of going to see a pharmacist, then making an appointment with a physical therapist, and yet another appointment with a dietitian, this is like one-stop shopping, putting patients truly at the centre of their care,” said Kopec. “We know that helping patients manage their condition more effectively can make a significant difference to their health.”

Patients who experience team-based care tend to make fewer visits to a doctor, and have a lower hospitalization rate, she said.

“If we take a look at our COPD program, the focus is on management of COPD, including education, teaching patients to self-manage their condition, and setting goals,” said Kopec. “Key activities include review of breathing, exercises, medication review and nutrition support.”

Joyce MacDonald was among the patients who were using the clinic the day of the grand opening; it was her first time at the clinic. She said it has allowed her to learn exercises and proper nutrition that will help mitigate the COPD symptoms. The information that the clinic has armed her with will help her know when she isn't feeling well.

“I think it's fabulous,” said MacDonald. “I can't see it being a negative, because … you need health care, and you need it quick, because when your symptoms come on, you don't have time to wait.”

MacDonald has been treated for asthma and allergies for years, and was recently diagnosed with mild COPD.

Prior to the clinic opening, she had to see a physician when her symptoms were a problem.

“Sometimes, when the doctors are busy, you're waiting two weeks,” said MacDonald. “Twenty-four hours can be too long for somebody with COPD. When you start feeling like it's getting bad, you have to see a doctor.”

Kopec said they aren't looking to have the Estevan clinic open more often. Instead, they hope to have clinics open at more locations in the health region. There are currently five COPD clinics in Sun Country.

COPD is a condition that slowly damages the breathing tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs. It leaves airways swollen and partially blocked by mucus. It also damages the tiny air sacs at the tips of airways, making it hard to move air in and out of lungs. It is the fourth leading cause of death in Canada.

It is also one of six chronic diseases that the Ministry of Health has identified for regional health authorities to focus on for improvements.


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