| May 28, 2009

Back to HomeFeature Article - May 28, 2009 Sharbot Lake Family Health Team grand openingBy Jeff Green

Grand Opening of the Sharbot Lake Family Health Team on Saturday, May 23.

Back in 1966, when Frances Smith was a high school student in Sharbot Lake, she gave a speech in which she asked why it was that Sharbot Lake had a beer store and a liquor store but no doctor.

About five years later a young doctor, Peter Bell, started his practice out of a trailer in the parking lot of the local hotel, and soon after that Oso township built an office for him next to the Sharbot Lake beach.

Flash forward 38 years or so, and the partnership between Peter Bell and the township, now called Central Frontenac, was a cause for celebration at the opening ceremonies for the Sharbot Lake Family Health Team.

Frances Smith, now a long-serving municipal politician, has been the contact between the municipality and the medical centre throughout this latest renovation and expansion project. The Sharbot Lake Medical Centre, which is part of the Kingston Rural Health Network, was chosen back in 2005 as one of the first 45 Family Health Teams in the province.

Family Health Teams are an expansion of the family medicine concept in Ontario, integrating family practice with other services under one roof. The Sharbot Lake team includes two doctors, a nurse practitioner, a registered nurse, a nurse specializing in diabetic care, a social worker, an administrative team, as well as affiliated practitioners who make use of the facility on a regular basis.

The lengthy construction project at the Sharbot Lake Medical Centre to house the Family Health Team has finally been completed, and that was a cause for celebration among the construction-weary staff at the centre. The renovations were carried out over several years amidst a continually busy medical practice.

“There were complications along the way,” said Peter Bell in acknowledging the construction project’s production and design crew, “and I know there were times they wanted to tear down the original building and start from scratch, but I thank them for their patience.”

The Family Health Team building renovation was funded by the Township of Central Frontenac with a financial commitment by the Ministry of Health to lease it on a long-term basis.

“The ministry has been very receptive in terms of designing the project and the services to fit with the needs identified by us,” said Peter Bell, “This has been one of the features of the project from the start.”

The building includes a new wing to accommodate affiliate services, as well as several meeting rooms of different sizes, for family treatment conferences, staff meetings, and community meetings.

After all of the disruptions due to renovations, the treatment rooms and waiting room are more or less back where they were prior to the construction, and the medical practitioners’ personal offices are located on the upper level.

The public meeting room has its own entrance on the lower parking lot facing the Sharbot Lake beach, adjacent to Dr. Dale's dental office, which has undergone renovations of its own. This location made an ideal outdoor setting for the opening celebrations, as a brilliantly sunny May afternoon lit up the lake.

The events were hosted by Central Frontenac Mayor Janet Gutowski, and featured remarks by Frances Smith as well as community member Wayne Robinson, who presented a plaque to Peter Bell from the community and praised him as a “steadfast catalyst who has made this beautiful facility possible.”

Marcel Giroux spoke as well, as a former educator and council member, and he focussed on the close relationship between the municipality and the medical centre.

“When I was first elected to Council in the early ’70s, I was made chair of the property management committee, of which I was the only member. I had to negotiate an agreement with Peter Bell. I don’t remember anything about the agreement, do you Peter?” he asked. Peter Bell shook his head. “I do know that it was always an easy partnership.”

The closeness between the township and the medical centre was a theme that was picked up by former Central Frontenac Mayor Bill MacDonald, who was the mayor when the Family Health Team was announced.

MacDonald was on hand as well to represent Leona Dombrowsky.

Dombrowsky is currently the Minister of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs in Ontario and the MPP for Hastings-Prince Edward, but back in 1995, as MPP for Hastings Frontenac Lennox and Addington, “she worked behind the scenes to support the Sharbot Lake application,” said MacDonald.

On April 16, 2005, when the funding for the Sharbot Lake Family Health Team was announced, it was the only rural team among the 45 that were part of the first wave of facilities.

In his closing remarks, Peter Bell introduced the current staff at the medical centre. He also singled out a former member of the medical centre staff, nurse practitioner Mary Woodman. Woodman was heavily involved in the family centre application while she was working in Sharbot Lake, and worked closely with Frances Smith, Bill MacDonald, and Peter Bell, in putting the successful application together.

When it came time to cut the ribbon opening the new centre, 90-year-old Harris Garrett, a long-time patient at the clinic, did the honours.

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