Lord Mayor Gary Zalepa and MPP Wayne Gates wrote to Health Minister Sylvia Jones last week urging her to make good on a promise to expand nurse practitioner services in Niagara-on-the-Lake. This is the text of the letter.
We hope this letter finds you well. The purpose of this letter is to follow up on your ministry’s previous authorization for a nurse practitioner position in the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake.
This was confirmed over a year ago in a letter dated July 14, 2022, where it was noted that a nurse practitioner in Niagara-on-the-Lake was supported and there is funding provided to Niagara Health by Ontario Health West which could be transferred for this purpose.
As a municipality, Niagara-on-the-Lake has a much higher population of senior residents than average. Approximately 36.2 per cent of the town’s population in 2021 was 65 years and over (4.3 per cent of which were 85 years or over).
In comparison, for Ontario, the proportion of seniors was 18.5 per cent in 2021 (of which 2.4 per cent were 85 years or over).
As we know, seniors present with more complex health care needs than younger members of our communities; therefore, there is a unique health care pressure related to the age characteristics of the community.
It is also worth noting that the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake welcomes over two million visitors annually who may also seek access to the nurse practitioner services. The addition of a nurse practitioner would ensure our residents, as well as visiting tourists, have access to the health care they need.
The town has also struggled with access to front-line health care services in recent years. Of a total population of approximately 19,000 residents, close to 8,000 – or approximately 40 per cent of residents – are not registered to receive health care services through the Niagara North Family Health Team.
While progress has been made due to efforts from the municipal and provincial governments, local health care providers, Niagara Health, and residents (including an expansion of the family health team to a new location earlier this year, and the recent groundbreaking of the new South Niagara Hospital), the lack of a nurse practitioner represents a glaring gap in services for residents.
It is also noteworthy that the Niagara-on-the-Lake hospital was closed in 2015, creating increased health care access pressures for Niagara-on-the-Lake residents.
With a significant primary care shortage and lack of access to emergency hospital services, Niagara-on-the-Lake needs to obtain nurse practitioner services as previously approved.
Unfortunately, there have been several recent instances of residents in need of urgent medical care, who were not rostered with the family health team, who then had to travel to upwards of 30 minutes to different municipalities to get the care they needed.
A nurse practitioner position, available to all residents as a walk-in service, is essential to assist these individuals in their time of need.
We invite you to meet with us to further discuss when the nurse practitioner will begin to practice in Niagara-on-the-Lake and we look forward to working collaboratively to get a service we so desperately need for the residents of Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Lord Mayor Gary Zalepa
Wayne Gates, MPP