Skip to content
News & Updates from Niagara Health

Share This Page

SCOPE Niagara sees double: celebrating two years of streamlining healthcare and two new pathways

Posted Jul 2nd, 2024

SCOPE Niagara sees double: celebrating two years of streamlining healthcare and two new pathways

More than 1,200 unnecessary visits to the Emergency Department (ED) in Niagara have been avoided since May 2022, thanks to SCOPE Niagara.

COPE Niagara – Seamless Care Optimizing the Patient Experience – connects primary care providers in the region with a team of specialists at Niagara Health and from Ontario Health at Home (formerly Home and Community Care). The primary care providers connect with the SCOPE Niagara team, who directs them to the most appropriate service, providing support for complex and urgent patients in real-time.

Nearly 200 family physicians and nurse practitioners are registered with the program, which recently expanded its pathways to include mental health and palliative care.

“The need for an increase in support for both of these areas of healthcare in Niagara was the driving force behind launching these new services,” says Sarah Furnival, SCOPE Nurse Navigator. “The purpose is to better streamline healthcare in Niagara, and ultimately, better serve people in the community.”

Primary care providers in the community who are registered with SCOPE can call Niagara Health’s on-call palliative care physician for questions about how to engage a patient in palliative care, how to understand what palliative care options are in Niagara, receive referrals as necessary such as to long-term care, understand when a patient should be sent to the ED, as well as get advice on how to manage symptoms and psychosocial issues.

"Niagara Health has begun to transform its community-facing care paths to work with primary care physicians to help patients avoid the ED and admission,” says Dr. Ryan Chadwick, a family physician at the Thorold Family Medical Centre, a team-based primary care organization. He also works as an ED physician at the Marotta Family Hospital in St. Catharines.

He said SCOPE helps connect outpatient doctors with hospital specialists and urgent diagnostics to diagnose and treat urgent concerns.

"I have now successfully used the program several times, including for the outpatient management of patients with acute conditions."

Rachel Humphries, Registered Nurse and Mental Health Nurse Navigator, joined SCOPE in January in time to help launch the mental health stream of the program. She says it’s an area that was identified as needing additional support in Niagara.

Throughout the past decade, there has been a significant increase – 33 per cent – in individuals seeking mental health care in Niagara.

Niagara Health currently experiences the highest patient volumes for mental health and addictions among all large community hospitals throughout the province, serving approximately 9,000 patients annually.

Unfortunately, these statistics aren’t entirely unique to Niagara – data has shown that nearly one in five adults will experience a mental illness at some point in their lifetime.

“There’s a need in the community to increase mental health services, and we’ve stepped up to help address these needs,” says Humphries. “We have direct contact with our team of psychiatrists, which is helpful for writing prescriptions, alleviating waiting for an appointment and avoiding ending up in crisis and needing to go to the Emergency Department (ED).”

In 2023-24, SCOPE helped to divert approximately 88 per cent of unnecessary visits to the ED.

“We’re continuing to grow and expand, the ED avoidance rate remains high and we’re proud of how SCOPE Niagara is doing,” says Furnival.

Niagara Health System