Health Care EL

Strengthening health care in the North Shore
By Nick Stewart

In the interest of serving its populace more efficiently, the City of Elliot Lake is partnering with Pharmx Rexall Drug Stores Ltd. to establish a new multidisciplinary health facility in the downtown core.

The $2.6 million facility will house 12 family physicians and 13 new health care positions that will be included within the Family Health Team.

The new centre will be located in the first and second floors of the Elliot Lake and North Shore Corporation for Business Development’s (ELNOS) three-storey site. The former tenants will be shifted to the building’s upper floor.
“We really need something like this to try and draw new physicians to move here,” said Daniel Gagnon, director of projects, tourism and leisure.

As the city has earmarked $563,000 for the project, much of the remaining cost will be shouldered by Rexall, who is planning on constructing a pharmacy-focused store within the facility. That price tag won’t be handled entirely on their own since the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care has agreed to lend a hand.

As part of its commitment to Elliot Lake through the Family Health Team initiative, the ministry will be helping to hire up the 13 additional health care professionals such as social workers, dietitians and nurse practitioners over the next few months, who will eventually be housed in the new centre. What’s more, any capital costs required to create and renovate space for these new hires will also be absorbed by the ministry, though this amount has yet to be determined.

These new hires represent just one reason for the creation of the new medical centre, as the city had been considering using provincial funding to renovate its aging three clinics for nearly four years until consultation with local doctors helped to convince them to use the money elsewhere.

“We were told by our local physicians that other communities in the north have a sort of one-stop shop or turnkey operation,” says Gagnon. “This way, a graduating new physician doesn’t have to worry about the burden of overhead costs of mortgage, rent payments, who’s going to plow the driveway and that kind of stuff.”

While work has already begun on the expansion of the parking area, renovation of the interior is not likely to begin until the spring, as further details about the centre are still being hammered out between the various parties. Even the centre’s name has yet to be settled, though Gagnon expects that Rexall’s extensive financial involvement in the project will likely find the building to carry the company’s brand in some way.

This project is expected to help maintain the vitality and general traffic levels of the city’s downtown core, which faced an uncertain future after it was announced its primary retailers, No Frills, was looking to move into a “big box” style outlet closer to the outskirts of town.

“We were very concerned what would happen, but now we’re getting our physicians and health care professionals under one roof in our downtown core,” says Gagnon. “We think that’s definitely going to help stimulate the economy.”

Gagnon says this partnership between public and private sectors ends up benefiting everyone, even ELNOS, who will act as landlord for Rexall and the new centre.

“They’re a non-profit business development corporation, so they can take the revenue they get from the building and pour it into their loans program or other economic development initiatives,” he says. “From the municipality’s perspective, it’s a win-win for all concerned.” The facility is slated to be completed by May 2007.(Nothern Ontario Business)

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