News

Support sought for NOTL health hub

By Penny Coles, Niagara Advance

The proposed new health centre for NOTL could be attached to the community centre or separate, sitting beside it, if the town supports the concept. Photo submitted

The proposed new health centre for NOTL could be attached to the community centre or separate, sitting beside it, if the town supports the concept. Photo submitted

What do Niagara-on-the-Lake residents think about a new health hub in town?

The health services steering committee is looking for public support for a new not-for-profit health centre to combine all existing health services of the family health team, along with independent services still at the hospital building, under one roof with room for expansion.

The committee has chosen the town-owned property beside the community centre as the preferred location, and plans to take its proposal to town council, hoping for its backing.

Brenda Jones, chair of the committee, wants to know how residents feel about a new health centre and the community centre location before going to council.

“We want our town council to support this concept by negotiating this piece of property already available for development,” she said.

“Surely, town council should realize that it is time to get involved and support healthcare in our community, especially when the majority of the population is 60-plus residents.”

She expects to have a completed business plan to present to the public at a meeting to be held at the community centre Thursday, April 27, and hopes to garner interest and support from the community before she goes to council with the proposal May 8.

While she doesn’t know what to expect in terms of negotiation for the property, she does have a conceptual design of the building, which is expected to be two storeys, between 28,000 and 30,000 square feet, with the a cost estimate of $200 to $250 per square foot. It could be attached to the community centre or a separate building beside it, she says. About 100 new parking spaces would be required, most in front of the building with some along one wall.

The committee “will not be asking or requiring any financial support from the town,” she said, with funding for the building expected to come from other levels of government and individual donations, and once complete, from yearly leases held by the tenants.

The health centre will have a board of governors responsible for operations of the building and a site manager to handle the leases and rentals for full-time tenants at a reasonable rate, said Jones.

According to the Brock University Goodman School of Business, which is acting as a consultant for the business plan, the tenant rate will be based on fair market value, between $20 to $30 per square foot, she said, and would be dependent upon the type of tenant - as an example, the Alzheimer Society would be charged a different rate than a physiotherapist.

The Niagara-on-the-Lake Foundation, formerly the Niagara-on-the-Lake Hospital Foundation, will continue to support health programs and small items of equipment. 

Jones said the committee introduced the concept of the health hub model at a June, 2016 council meeting, requesting the town property next to the community centre. She recalled it being referred to staff for a follow-up, but said she had never heard back.

But Holly Dowd, then town clerk and now the town’s CAO, said it was suggested at the meeting that a motion be made for town staff to meet with members of the steering committee, but that motion was not put forward, so nothing came of the request.

Jones is concerned if some action isn’t taken soon, now the hospital has been sold to the town, residents will lose access to services such as the X-ray and lab work still operating in the basement of the building.

“When the hospital closed, we lost 22 beds, but the independent services have remained, and residents may just assume they will continue to be offered, even if they go somewhere else. But that’s not a given,” she said.

“We are still passionate and determined to make sure that our health care needs are supported by the town and accessible to all residents.”

The committee needs to know if residents want it to continue its pursuit to maintain current services, she said, in addition to being able to offer more health care programs, extended hours for a walk-in clinic; and opportunities to see specialists who will be accessible in one building at a convenient site.

The current medical clinic in Virgil, which is expected to be expanded and has been suggested as an alternative to a new health hub, is operated privately by a developer, not someone involved in health care, she said.

The Ontario government supports the hub concept, with centralized activities and resources located in the heart of the community, Jones said, and the committee has had participation, commitment and support from other health care providers, including the Niagara Health System, the Local Health Integration Network, Community Care Access Centre, Hospice Niagara and the local palliative care service, the regional public health department and the Niagara North Family Health Team, which now includes the NOTL Family Health Team.

The public meeting, April 27 from 7 to 9 p.m., is an opportunity for residents to hear about the committee’s proposal, ask questions and discuss what they would like to see in a health hub, before the May 8 council meeting when the proposal will be presented.

 



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