A Lunenburg County woman who survived two heart attacks in her early 30s is disappointed to learn that the Nova Scotia Health Authority's community heart clinic in Bridgewater has closed its doors.
"I called the cardiac clinic number and it said it was closed indefinitely," Nicole Nickerson of Middle LaHave told LighthouseNOW.
"It's really disappointing, to be honest. I think that we're losing so many services here on the South Shore and this is something that we really, really need because of the high rates of cardiac disease. And I know how much it helped me," she said.
LighthouseNOW reached out to the NSHA for more information on the closing of the clinic. Brendan Elliott, a senior advisor in the NSHA's media relations department, reported in an email that the clinic opened in 2006 and "temporarily ceased operation" on January 31 of this year.
"Due to a recent vacancy, there is a temporary interruption in services provided by the Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) and Heart Function Clinic in Bridgewater as part of NSHA's Cardiovascular Health Services. Recruitment to fill the position is underway," wrote Elliott. He later confirmed that a nurse practitioner with the clinic had accepted another position, creating the vacancy.
Operating out of the Lunenburg County YMCA, the clinic offered education, supervised exercise, lifestyle and medication counselling as well as chronic disease management follow-up for heart patients and their caregivers.
Dr. Sharon Mulvagh, a cardiologist who teaches medicine at Dalhousie University and co-director of the Women's Heart Health Clinic in Halifax, volunteered her time with the Cardiac Rehab sessions giving talks. She too described the closure to LighthouseNOW as "disappointing."
Nickerson's sister died of a heart attack at the age of 25. She says the difference the clinic had made to herself is "phenomenal. I mean it's something that I will always advocate for because we really need it. Especially if there's a senior population," said Nickerson.
She said a lot of people in the county don't have doctors. "So they're going [to the clinic] and they're getting a lot of answers there. They're going over the medications that they're on. They're explaining healthy living habits, which might be common sense to us, but if you're, like 70 years old, and you're from Lunenburg County, you probably pickled everything all of your life," said Nickerson, who has been a spokesperson in the past for the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Nova Scotia.
In the meantime, according to Elliott, patients of the clinic will continue to receive care from their primary care provider at their family practice or by their internal medicine specialist. "NSHA is working with patients of this clinic on their follow-up care plan," he added.
In honour of Wear Red Canada Day, the national campaign to promote awareness of heart disease in Canadian women on February 13, women and men plan to meet up at the Lunenburg waterfront wearing red for a group photo organized by Sue Kelly and Nancy Macdonald. Their plan is also to have an information day at the Fisherman's Memorial Hospital in Lunenburg.
In Halifax, arrangements have been made to broadcast a Lunch and Learn program concerning heart disease at the South Shore Regional Hospital in Bridgewater on February 13.