| Apr 21, 2005

Feature article,April 21, 2005

Feature article April 21, 2005

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Sharbot Lake Medical Centre becomes Family Health Team

by Jeff Green

When Dr. Peter Bell and Nurse Practitioner Mary Woodman heard that the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care was setting up about 45 pilot sites for Family Health Teams last November, they knew they wanted to make the Sharbot Lake Medical Centre into one of those pilot sites.

Peter Bell had even presaged MPP Leona Dombrowskys visit to Sharbot Lake to make the announcement.

At a meeting of our local inter-agency group in early December, we outlined the application process and timelines, ending with a tongue-in-cheek prediction that Minister Dombrowsky would be coming on April 1 to announce a Family Health Team for Sharbot Lake.

In the end it didnt happen until April 15, but last Friday Leona Dombrowsky was at the Medical Centre with the good news that it is one of 52 sites chosen, out of 230 applicants, to become a Family Health Team.


Family Health Teams include doctors, nurse practitioners and other health care professionals working together to provide comprehensive care day and night, seven days a week. The Sharbot Lake team will also provide mental health services, rehabilitative care and internal medicine, Dombrowsky said.

Just about all of the other 51 other Family Health Teams are located in larger centres, and most include large numbers of doctors and other medical service providers.

The Sharbot Lake Medical Centre is the kind of practice that dovetails nicely with the goals set out for Family Health Teams by the Ministry of Health.

Family Health Teams are the next generation of primary health care, says a government press release. Most notably, Family Health Teams differ from other models because they include a wide range of health professionals working together to serve the unique needs of the people in their community.

In many ways, these kinds of relationships have already been established in Sharbot Lake, as Dr. Bell pointed out in his remarks last Friday, making reference to the Medical Centres team approach involving on-site psychiatry and community mental health workers. He expressed the belief that the Family Health Team Initiative should provide the necessary resources, including infrastructure, to develop an even more comprehensive community-based team.

Another initiative that Mary Woodman has been developing is the establishment of an outreach clinic at the Sharbot Lake High School, in the hope that this will help overcome barriers that prevent adolescents from seeking the appropriate care for both physical and mental health problems. While similar programs have been set up in other jurisdictions, this will be the first in the Limestone District School Board.

As a Family Health Team, the Sharbot Lake Medical Centre will also be looking to address the needs of the diverse population it serves, a population that Dr. Bell describes as having a disproportionate incidence of chronic illness, including diabetes, heart disease, smoking and other smoking-related diseases.

Both Peter Bell and Leona Dombrosky took pains to point out that Family Health Teams will be set up to respond to local needs.

The Ministry of Health will be looking to the new Family Health Teams to provide the direction for this initiative. It will not be a top-down process, said Leona Dombrowsky.

This point was emphasised by Peter Bell. I want to thank the government for taking this approach. It is the best way to respond to local needs, he said.

In thanking the people and agencies that helped bring this announcement about, Peter Bell again demonstrated the community approach to health care that has developed in Sharbot Lake. He thanked Mayor Bill MacDonald and Councillor Frances Smith, who helped to write the proposal to the Ministry of Health, and Northern Frontenac Community Services, our ally for over 30 years. He also thanked the Queens University Department of Family Medicine, for which the Medical Centre is a teaching site; the Providence Continuing Care Centre, a partner in the delivery of Mental Health Services; and the University of Ottawa. Finally, Peter Bell thanked all the members of the inter-agency group who work with us daily and who share our goals and commitment to serving the people of this community.

As far as what comes next, the staff of the Medical Centre are waiting to hear from the Ministry of Health. But they are already envisioning how to improve their overcrowded facility, develop new services, and improve existing services that they know their patients are in need of.

Kathy Martin, a nurse who was working with Peter Bell when the Medical Centre opened in a house trailer on the parking lot of what is now the Sharbot Lake Motor Inn, recalled last Friday how, Sandra Moase [also on hand for the announcement] and I carried buckets of water from the hotel to the trailer so we could open up the clinic. Youve come a long way to get to this day.


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