Chatham-Kent sees expansion of health services in 2023

Facing challenges similar to other communities, especially in its rural areas, Chatham-Kent received good news with a number of significant health-care announcements over the past year.

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Facing challenges similar to other communities, especially in its rural areas, Chatham-Kent received good news with a number of significant health-care announcements over the past year.

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Through either permanent or mobile facilities, patient access to care was key, as well as the potential to attract more practitioners to town.

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More than two million Ontarians have no family doctor, leaving many areas with shortages of physicians.

In November, plans were announced for a multimillion-dollar health centre in Blenheim to help recruit doctors and equip them with multiple services in one location.

About 21,000 residents in Chatham-Kent, which includes Blenheim, have no family doctor, Cathy Smith, spokesperson for the newly-formed Blenheim Medical Health Foundation, said at the time.

The Blenheim Medical Centre serves more than 5,600 patients, but Smith said the building is “woefully inadequate in terms of its size for any kind of programs that we’re looking to implement.”

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Dr. Andrew Lanz-O’Brien, a foundation member who works with four other doctors in the medical centre, said space is tight at the existing facility.

“If all five of us were to try to work at the same time on the same day, we’d run out of examination rooms,” he said.

The project started with the acquisition of a 26,000-square-foot building, located at 2 Hyland Dr., donated by local residents Annie and Peter Timmermans.

“Now we can focus on fundraising for the renovation as opposed to fundraising for the purchase of the building,” Smith said.

Millions of dollars will have to be raised, with plans to have the building open by 2025, she said.

The foundation aims to have diagnostic imaging services, such as X-ray and ultrasound, along with laboratory, pharmacy and mental health services to complement more doctors.

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Additional phases are planned for the health hub, with more structures and health care providers.

Also in November, a new temporary clinic in Chatham was announced. It offers care to people with cough, cold and flu symptoms and other minor illnesses, especially those without a family doctor.

Chatham-Kent Health Alliance partnered with Chatham-Kent EMS to operate the Chatham-Kent Seasonal Care Clinic, out of a mobile trailer near the CKHA’s emergency department.

Dr. Peter MacKinnon, who was working with paramedic Amy Larsen in the clinic, said a combination of factors led to this first-time venture.

“There’s certainly a need for it in Chatham-Kent; 20 per cent of the population doesn’t have a family doctor,” he said.

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The clinic aims to lighten some of the load on the emergency department by treating “people that have got nowhere else to go,” he added.

“I think it’s a great little addition to our service,” Larsen said. “We’re trying to do new things to serve the community in a good way and this is an easy way to do that.”

When patients go to the emergency department to register, the triage nurse will let them know if the seasonal clinic is appropriate, so they don’t have to wait in emergency.

Hours will vary from week to week. Check CKHA’s social media channels or for details.

Bothwell clinic
CarePartners officially opened its modular care clinic in the Bothwell arena parking lot in September. From left are Isabella Smith, registered practical nurse; Linda Knight CarePartners executive chair and founder; Josephine DesLauriers, chief executive officer; and Jodi Phillips, vice-president of patient care and experience. (Trevor Terfloth/The Daily News)

To the east, a new modular clinic in Bothwell was opened in September.

CarePartners, which runs the facility with Erie St. Clair Home Community Care Support Services, held a special event in the community’s arena parking lot, where it is located.

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While it doesn’t replace a primary care provider, the fully accessible clinic provides many services, from intravenous needs to wound care.

One full-time nurse and two part-time nurses staff the facility, which operates 60 hours a week.

Jodi Phillips, CarePartners’ vice-president of patient care and experience, said community care support services staff conduct an assessment of the patient, then refer them to the clinic.

She said the clinic, which features patient and office space, is considered semi-permanent in that it could be towed to another location, but is a fixture of the area for the foreseeable future.

Noting the planning began more than a year ago, Phillips said CarePartners aims to improve care services in Ontario. The Bothwell site is the organization’s first modular clinic, which helps provide cost savings.

“We’re very proud of this new presence here in Bothwell,” she said. “And look forward to continuing to grow ties in this community.”

A ribbon cutting also took place in September for a new nurse practitioner-led clinic in Wheatley, which faced a need after the retirement of its family physician.

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