y Don Crosby, published in The Owen Sound Sun Times
The South West Local Health Integration Network board gave its support for a proposal for the Markdale Rural Health Centre at a board meeting in Meaford on Wednesday.
The proposal calls for some health-care services in southeast Grey to be integrated. A community health-care centre, expected to start later this year, and the Markdale Hospital, which is to be rebuilt, would be combined to form the rural health centre.
LHIN and Grey Bruce Health Services officials agree that the next step is to get the provincial government to include the project on its 10 year capital projects list and begin developing an architectural design.
LHIN chief executive officer Michael Barrett’s advice is for a group of municipal leaders, hospital officials and LHIN representatives to meet with staff at Minister of Health Deb Matthews’ office.
“I think it’s up to the local mayors and representatives of the hospital to move forward to try and have that conversation with the minister’s office or the minister’s office staff to help them understand the proposal,” Barrett said during a public meeting in Flesherton on Wednesday. “We recognize the importance of this project to the municipality and we’d be there to support the municipal mayors and hospital in that process.”
There was no mention of a doctors’ clinic as part of the new facility, as some people in Markdale had anticipated.
Maureen Solecki, CEO and president of Grey Bruce Health Services, said there’s been considerable discussion about where to locate a doctors’ clinic, but it being part of the hospital is not in the works.
“What we’re trying to do, by putting the hospital and community health centre functions together, has never been done anywhere else where hospital and community health care cent re s have come together. It’s more challenging to put primary health-care offices into a hospital because there is no operating budget to support that,” said Solecki, who added that the community health care centre has an operating budget that includes money to rent office space for health-care practitioners in the centre.
“Individual physicians manage either by owning their building or renting their offices. It’s more complicated to incorporate them into a hospital structure,” Solecki said.
Solecki acknowledged the similarity in services provided by community health teams and community health centres. Each community health centre has a clear mandate and targets specific populations depending on its location. The centre is staffed with doctors, nurse practitioners and other health-care providers paid for by the government.
Solecki is confident there will be a high level of cooperation among all health care providers, “whether they are receiving hospital care, whether they are receiving primary health care through the community health centre or primary care through the existing nurse practitioners and other health care providers.”
“Because it’s a rural community we need to be flexible about what services are provided. I would hope that we would all be more flexible about how we provide the care here in southeast Grey,” Solecki said.
Grey Highlands’ Mayor Wayne Fitzgerald says it’s important to keep the political pressure on the government in the months leading up to the provincial election in October. He is also encouraged by any movement on a new rural health centre could have positive results on attracting more doctors.