New healthy aging clinic in Dieppe aims to help seniors maintain independence, avoid hospital

A rendering of the healthy aging clinic, located at 665 Champlain St., in Dieppe. It is the first one of its kind for the Vitalité Health Network. (Vitalité Health Network  - image credit)
A rendering of the healthy aging clinic, located at 665 Champlain St., in Dieppe. It is the first one of its kind for the Vitalité Health Network. (Vitalité Health Network - image credit)

A new healthy aging clinic has opened in Dieppe, offering a range of assessment and rehabilitation services for people aged 65 and older.

The 8,000-square-foot clinic on Champlain Street has a multi-disciplinary team of doctors, nurses, a physiotherapist, an occupational therapist, a speech-language pathologist and a social worker. It's the first one of its kind for Vitalité Health Network.

The objective is "to be able to support patients … allow them to remain independent" at home and maintain their quality of life, Sharon Smyth Okana, Vitalité's senior vice-president of client programs and nursing, told the board in French on Tuesday.

"As well, we want to reduce hospitalizations and improve patient flow," by accelerating certain discharges.

'Step forward,' says advocate

Cecile Cassista, executive director of the Coalition for Seniors and Nursing Home Residents' Rights, calls the clinic "a step forward" and "an enhancement to our health-care system."

Many seniors don't have a family doctor, but are "reluctant to go to the hospital because they have to wait forever and ever" and risk being exposed to illnesses, such as COVID-19, she said.

Cecile Cassista, executive director, Coalition for Seniors and Nursing Home Residents’ Rights
Cecile Cassista, executive director, Coalition for Seniors and Nursing Home Residents’ Rights

Cecile Cassista, executive director of the Coalition for Seniors and Nursing Home Residents’ Rights, said the clinic is in an ideal location and has free parking, which should help encourage seniors to use the service. (Submitted by Cecile Cassista)

But it's important they seek medical assistance when they need it, said Cassista. She encourages them to "get help, don't wait till it's too late and then you end up in the hospital and you can't get out."

"I'm hoping people will take advantage of it. I'm hoping the word will get out so that people will know it's there."

More clinics planned

Cassista also hopes to see such a clinic in Riverview, which has 14,000 seniors, and in other communities across the province. They will be helpful to the aging population, free up emergency departments to deal with emergencies, and save the health-care system money, she said.

Vitalité plans to open similar clinics in all four of its health zones, said Smyth Okana.

Geriatric medical assessment clinics have already been set up at the Enfant-Jésus RHSJ† Hospital in Caraquet and the Campbellton Regional Hospital, according to the quarterly report presented to the board.

Rehabilitation services, such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy and social work, will be added in a second phase of implementation, it says.

Work on a clinic for the Edmundston region, Zone 4, is expected to begin in a couple of years, Smyth Okana said.