03/18/2016 17:23 EDT | Updated 03/19/2017 01:12 EDT

Petition launched to keep nurse-only clinic open in Quebec City

Patients at a clinic in Quebec City are rallying to keep it open. 

Clinique SABSA is a nurse-only co-operative in the St. Roch neighbourhood that has been up and running since 2014.

It's slated for closure on May 1 because its annual funding of $250,000 from the Quebec Order of Nurses will not be renewed.

The order says a sustainable long-term funding solution has to be found, but the province isn't jumping in to close the gap. 

"I was disheartened," said Geneviève Martel, one of the patients who helped start an online petition.

When she first came to Quebec City two and a half years ago, Martel said she had trouble finding a doctor. She used community clinics. 

"You would have to get there before it opened in the morning, to join in the line-up in order to actually get in the waiting room and then wait for another three or four hours," Martel said.

"I couldn't find a doctor. I was on a waiting list. They told me that it could take up to five years."

Martel told CBC that she's still on that waiting list. In the meantime she was taken on as a patient at the nurse-only clinic.

Patient happy with clinic services

Several nurses work with the clinic, including one full-time nurse practitioner. Martel is seen by one of the nurse practitioners, Isabelle Têtu, who is also the co-founder of the clinic. Martel said she is able to get blood work and yearly exams at the clinic. If she needs a prescription that is beyond what Têtu is allowed to prescribe, the nurse practitioner works with a doctor who is offsite, but still partnered with the clinic.

"Everything works fine," Martel said.

This week, Health Minister Gaetan Barette said he believes the project was a good one. But he still wants to see nurses integrated into primary care family physician groups.

"We need and we want to have a network of service points where the population will have access to the whole thing, not a multiplication of sites where you have a nurse here, a pharmacists here, and doctor there, a physiotherapist at another place. It has to be at one place," he said.

"I will not develop a parallel health care network." 

Martel said the clinic is too important to close. 

"SABSA was created to respond to a problem, and it's a working solution and I think they should focus on that."

Isabelle Têtu said that the services at the clinic are complimentary to family doctor groups, adding that the clinic also serves clients who have a hard time adapting to the structure of the health care system.

Some of the patients at the clinic include people struggling with addiction or suffering from mental health issues. 

Before 2014, the clinic was set-up for nurses who volunteered their time to work with people with AIDS and HIV.