Metro/Scott Taylor From left, registered nurse Heather Lake, Dr. Carole Orchard and nurse practitioner Amy Biderman celebrate the official grand opening of the Health Zone clinic on Southdale Road.

Some medical clinics are a vital part of their community, but London now has one that’s literally embedded in the neighbourhood it serves.

The Health Zone Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinic on Southdale Road aims to be a vital thread in one of the city’s most diverse areas.

Thanks to provincial funding, the clinic’s been able to renovate a townhome in the middle of a large complex near Southdale and Millbank Drive. The work has turned the space into a fully functioning clinic for disadvantaged people who might not otherwise have access to healthcare.

Dr. Carole Orchard, associate professor and coordinator of interprofessional education initiatives at Western University, said it’s easy for some people to fall between the cracks.

There are language, economic, transportation and other barriers that make it difficult for some people to find appropriate care, she said.

“This type of model really, holistically, meets the needs of people who live in what we call challenged situations,” Orchard said. “We also knew that these people were often being excluded from family practices just because they have a lot of complex needs.

“We look at the environments they’ve come from and are in and then, beyond that, we want to provide them with comprehensive services.”

Those services include social support, counselling, primary care and family education.

The Health Zone partners with Western University to provide undergraduate nursing students with clinical experience.

“We look at health promotion, health prevention, treatment and any rehabilitation pieces that we can provide for them, as well,” Orchard said.

Health Zone nurses from all three city clinics — the other two are at Barberry Court and Merrymount Children’s Centre on Colborne — also provide weekly clinics at Women’s Community House, My Sister’s Place and Rotholme Women’s and Family Shelter.

Orchard and her team partnered with London and Middlesex Housing Corporation in 2009 to open two clinics funded by a short-term grant from Workforce Ontario.

Despite reducing emergency-room traffic by 50 per cent in nearly a year, the funding dried up and they were forced to close. New funding gave the clinics a second life and they reopened in 2011.

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