BURK’S FALLS – The local Family Health Team (FHT) is now open for business.
“New programs through FHTs are continually being evaluated by the ministry, which is why we are hopeful that the Burk’s Falls FHT can become the cornerstone for new primary care programs in the community,” said Dr. Andrew Albert, one of two doctors working at the clinic.
The Health Team was incorporated in 2009 and consists of a board of two physicians and one community member.
It officially opened its doors on April 23, and is planning a grand opening celebration in the weeks to come.
Along with Dr. Albert and Dr. David Apramian, who have each been in the area for nearly three decades, the facility houses a nurse practitioner, registered nurse and a mental health worker, as well as a registered practical nurse who is assigned to the newly funded Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN).
Using two-way videoconferencing, the Network provides access to specialized care for patients in every hospital and hundreds of other health care locations across the province.
The centre includes the Community Care Access Centre, a laboratory and X-Ray department on the main floor. Addiction Outreach and Northern Diabetes Health Network are located upstairs and the basement is set up for outpatient physiotherapy.
“One of the stumbling blocks we had as an FHT has been a lack of efficient space,” explained Albert. “Due to global financial difficulties at the time, the ministry was only willing to fund a renovation of the Burk’s Falls Health Centre and not a new build.”
According to Albert, the ministry also required an investment from the community.
“Thankfully, the Village of Burk’s Falls has generously provided funding to complete the project,” he said.
The capital project included necessary building infrastructure upgrades to the roof, windows and heating and cooling system.
“Our funding received from the Ministry of Health covered our interior renovation work for the Family Health Team space. Both landlord and tenant construction was done together under the same tendered project as it made sense,” said Laurie Hutcheson, administrator.
According to Hutcheson, the Village of Burk's Falls was given money from the Huntsville District Memorial Hospital Foundation after the ownership of the Burk's Falls & District Health Centre property was transferred to them by Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare in October 2011. The Foundation funds represented donations received for the Burk's Falls & District Health Centre, which MAHC operated for many years as a hospital and was slated to go to improvements in the building's infrastructure.
The new name for the health centre is the Almaguin Highlands Health Centre, which is a not-for-profit corporation with a board comprised of representatives from the various townships in the area.
Albert said the Health Team model is the best way for the government to save money overall, since a visit to a local health care provider amounts to a fraction of the cost of a hospital visit. Not to mention, a saved trip for the patient to hospitals in either North Bay or Huntsville. He said the idea behind Health Teams is to provide ongoing care to keep patients healthier, not just treat patients once they get sick.
“At the time we applied for funding, we didn’t realize the Burk’s Falls Health Centre was destined to close,” explained Albert.
As a result of the closure, Albert said the Health Team is even more important because it seems to be the only means for health care dollars to flow into a community for primary health care.
“We feel confident that FHTs will be the primary model for health care delivery in Ontario for the foreseeable future,” he said.
With a large selection of healthcare professionals under one roof, patients can receive care more quickly and from someone they are comfortable with.
The Health Team is accepting new patients from the local catchment area, which includes Burk’s Falls, Ryerson and Armour areas. Anyone who is looking for a local doctor or who is currently without a doctor is encouraged to apply for service.
For more details on the health centre and its services, visit www.Almaguin-health.org.