| May 29, 2008

Feature Article - May 29, 2008

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Feature Article - May 29, 2008 Family Health Team taking shapeBy Jeff Green

Over three years have now passed since Leona Dombrowsky, who was then MPP for Hastings-Frontenac-Lennox & Addington, came to Sharbot Lake on April 1, 2005 to announce that the Sharbot Lake Medical Centre was going to be one of 45 pilot Family Health Team projects to be funded by the Ontario Ministry of Health.

Dr. Peter Bell, who established a practice in Sharbot Lake in the early 1970s, has been the driving force behind the Family Health Team. The project has included designing improved services, and an extensive renovation to the Sharbot Lake Medical Centre, a building that is owned by the Township of Central Frontenac.

Two distinctive features of the Sharbot Lake Family Health Team are its rural location, which is a rarity, and the partnership between the Ministry of Health, the medical centre and the township, which has been a feature of the project.

The construction project itself has been a prime example of this. The project was tendered and financed by the township, and the ministry has provided most of the funding. Meanwhile the medical centre staff were involved with the design and have been the ones who have had to shuffle from one room to another as the building project lingered through the winter.

All of that is soon to be relegated to the past, as the project will be completed by early June.

Sitting in one of the new offices, as the drywallers and painters are completing the new wing, Peter Bell is as enthusiastic about the changes as he was when the project was initially approved.

“This community is receiving an investment from the ministry that is greater than population alone would justify,” he said, “so the ministry deserves a lot of credit for that.”

When fully staffed, the Sharbot Lake Family Health Team will include two full-time physicians, one nurse practitioner, a registered nurse, a nurse specializing in diabetes, a social worker, a dietitian, a program manager and more.

It will continue to offer counselling of various kinds, and weekly visits from a psychiatrist. The Community Care Access Centre will be opening a satellite office in the building as well, and the conjunction of all of these professionals, coordinated by a dedicated office staff, will allow for patients to receive the kind of comprehensive care that is rarely found in rural settings.

The centre will be governed by a management committee that includes the two doctors and the nurse practitioner as well as a member of the township council, and a public advisory committee is being established as well.

“When this was being set up, the ministry did not impose a model that we had to fit into. There was a great deal of room for us to build something that fits our requirements,” said Dr. Bell.

This has allowed the Sharbot Lake Family Health Team to focus on medical issues of specific local concern, such as diabetes, lung disease, mental health and other problems associated with an aging population.

Incorporated into the renovated building are a couple of larger rooms that will be used for medical purposes and will be available for public use as well. The building was also designed to maximize interaction between the different practitioners working there.

The Sharbot Lake Family Health Team should be fully operational by the beginning of the summer. The official opening will take place in late September.

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