Marie-Christine Gras praised for project that treats those on waiting lists while expanding role of nurses
Marie-Christine Gras had a vision that was based on a simple idea: With so many people on a waiting list for a family doctor, why not offer them the opportunity to be treated by a team of nurses?
The Program Manager with our CIUSSS pushed ahead and set up a clinic in a trailer next to the Jewish General Hospital. And now, a year after her project got up and running, she is being showered with accolades for it.
Ms. Gras has won first prize in the Modern category in the 2022 Stars du Réseau de la santé (Stars of the healthcare system), awarded to a professional who improves the lives of patients and families by implementing new procedures.
She’s also a finalist for a prestigious Florence Award in the Health Promotion category, bestowed by the Quebec Order of Nurses.*
The honours highlight Ms. Gras’s ground-breaking initiative — the first of its kind in Quebec — to provide care for “orphan” patients without family doctors in the area served by CIUSSS West-Central Montreal.
Since the project was launched last year, more than 1,700 people in our CIUSSS’s area have been seen at the clinic, which operates out of the JGH parking lot on Bourret Avenue at Légaré Street.
“The earlier you diagnose problems, the lower the costs on the healthcare system, and the better the quality of life for the client.”Marie-Christine Gras
The goal behind the GAMF Clinic (for Guichet d’accès à un médecin de famille) is to reach and treat users preventatively before they require urgent medical treatment or wind up in an Emergency Department. It’s especially important in our CIUSSS, where 37 per cent of residents—nearly 116,000 people—have no family doctor.
Members of Ms. Gras’s team cold-called people who were registered on the government’s waiting list for a family doctor—some of them for years. They were offered an appointment and then evaluated by the team of nurses, who are part of our CIUSSS’s Frontline Integrated Services Directorate.
The results have been conclusive: Nine in ten of those with no known health problems ended up requiring follow-up treatment. These included people with conditions such as undiagnosed high-blood pressure, diabetes, or even heart ailments requiring the placement of a cardiac stent. One woman was found to have a breast lesion that indicated a high possibility of cancer.
Yet the patients typically had no idea they even had a problem. Without early detection by the nursing team, they might have ended up with serious, even deadly, health difficulties later.
“The earlier you diagnose problems, the lower the costs on the healthcare system, and the better the quality of life for the client,” says Ms. Gras, who is a Program Manager for family medicine groups, the family doctor registry and primary care access points, collectively known as GMF-GAMF-GAP.
The goal is to take the patients in hand and steer them into the healthcare system until they get a family doctor. “It’s not the same as having a family doctor, but we were able to help them,” she says.
“Marie-Christine has endless energy and has shown real dedication to improving patient care.”Irina Blumer, Ms. Gras’s supervisor
The prize represents recognition for another major facet of her project: Expanding the role of nurses in health care, which Ms. Gras says has always been one of her fundamental goals.
“I’m proud that the nurses on the team push their role to the maximum,” Ms. Gras says. “They feel valued and they appreciate that they’re being given more autonomy.”
Irina Blumer, Ms. Gras’s supervisor, says it took determination, vision and leadership for Ms. Gras to get the project off the ground—and to do so during the COVID-19 pandemic, when access to healthcare services was especially difficult.
“Marie-Christine spearheaded everything and took the initiative to put it all together,” says Ms. Blumer, Coordinator for GMF-GAMF-GAP. “She has endless energy and has shown real dedication to improving patient care.”
The presentation of the prize from the Caisse Desjardins du Réseau de la santé came as a surprise.
One morning in late April, Ms. Gras was invited by a colleague to come to their downtown office at the CLSC Métro, supposedly to join him for lunch. Then, to make sure she’d show up, Ms. Blumer also insisted that Ms. Gras attend an urgent staff meeting at the same location.
As Ms. Gras sat at a conference table with her co-workers, a Desjardins representative appeared in the doorway, bearing the award. A startled Ms. Gras accepted it, wiping away tears and accepting congratulations from her colleagues.
“I was surprised and honoured,” Ms. Gras says, insisting that credit go to the nurses and other members of her team. “Maybe I started the project, but it isn’t about me. I couldn’t have done what I did without my team.”
* Lucie Tremblay, Director of Nursing for our CIUSSS, is nominated by the Quebec Order of Nurses for a Florence Award in the Leadership category. The winners will be announced on June 15.