Funding helps equip and train nurse practitioners

NANAIMO – Snaw-Naw-As Chief David Bob said expanding support is good for rural areas.

A funding injection from the First Nations Health Authority will help equip and train nurse practitioners, according to Island Health.

The First Nations Health Authority, in charge of administering federal health programs and services for First Nations in B.C., has given Island Health $145,000 to support hiring nurse practitioners and the start-up of their practices. Dollars could help provide examination tables, clinical and diagnostic equipment.

According to Ian Knipe, Island Health’s director of aboriginal health, both organizations see the need to prioritize access to primary care for First Nations people, who can be challenged to get to services because of geographical barriers or past experiences. The overall goal is to boost the number of nurse practitioners on Vancouver Island, who can provide primary care to FIrst Nation communities, like diagnosis of disease, medication prescriptions and specialist referrals. But Knipe said the latest funding will be focused more on providing resources for the health professionals.

“It will not increase the number of nurse practitioners, but it will give them the additional equipment and resources to provide services and part of the funds will be going to support the nurse practitioners to take cultural safety training,” he said.

While Snaw-Naw-As First Nation Chief David Bob is waiting to see how the funding is administered, he says expanding and supporting nurse practitioners is good, especially for rural and isolated areas. He is also interested in seeing one of the health professionals at his community’s new health centre. People on the reserve can already access a community health nurse, mental health services and maternal and wellness programs. A nurse practitioner would make it easier for people to get services and save them from having to travel to their physicians, according to Bob, who says one of the community’s main issues is transportation. He is currently in talks with Oceanside Health Centre about enhancing services.

A representative from the First Nations Health Authority was unavailable for comment before press time.