The Huntsville Health Care Clinic is looking to expand.
Janine van den Heuvel, Executive Director of the Algonquin Family Health Team, says they want to increase opening hours to five days a week, as well as hopefully broaden their offerings.
“We understand that we’re operating on three days a week right now, and obviously we know the need is greater than that,” says van den Heuvel. “We’re just asking patients, families, and caregivers for patience as we try and expand.”
Van den Heuvel says they’ve submitted two proposals to the Ministry of Health and Ontario Health: one for a full-time nurse practitioner and administrative assistant costing around $300,000, and the other costing roughly $570,000 with some mental support and physiotherapy on top of the two roles.
The clinic is for unattached patients, those who do not have a primary care doctor or nurse practitioner. Van den Heuvel says more than 30 per cent of Muskoka residents meet that description, with the clinic seeing 1,544 patients since it opened its doors in February—an average of 53 a week.
“One of the physicians that was just inside the clinic basically said that he hasn’t seen patients so grateful in a very long time,” says van den Heuvel. “There’s obviously a need to provide primary care to unattached patients in the community, and I think the patients that come into the clinic are deserving and very grateful.”
She says one of the major causes is a lack of new practitioners coming into the region.
“What the data seems to show is that it’s just difficult in general to recruit new grads to primary care for various reasons,” says van den Heuvel. “Housing complications, being a general practitioner versus being a specialist. I think that’s an issue all over the province right now, not unique to Muskoka at all.”
What is unique, she says, is the approach the Muskoka and Area Ontario Health Team is taking, where resources have been banded together across the region to hire a recruiter and directly tackle the problem. That program is currently underway.
In the meantime, van den Heuvel says they’re expecting a response from the province within the next month, with a few smaller grants in the works at the federal and local levels.
“I think that there’s probably a need for these kinds of services in lots of communities throughout Ontario, and I think that we’re all deserving of funding,” she says.