By: Mike Anderson
The Georgina Community Heath Care Council’s (GCHCC) recent struggle to secure funding for a permanent home for the Georgina Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinic is the proverbial canary in the coal mine when it comes to the state of health care in Georgina.
This summer, the Georgina Health Centre in Keswick, one of only a few medical clinics with extended hours, scaled back its after-hours walk-in clinic. This week, for instance, Monday was the only day with extended hours until 7 p.m.
There’s also a walk-in clinic at the Walmart in Keswick, but it doesn’t offer extended hours this week.
Basically, if you’re sick after-hours, be prepared to drive to the emergency department at Southlake in Newmarket, or to the Markham Stouffville Hospital – this is particularly challenging for residents who rely on public transit.
Georgina is also facing a shortage of family doctors. Although there are quite a few GPs in Keswick, they’re in short supply in the rest of Georgina. According to GCHCC, there used to be close to half a dozen GPs in Sutton, now there are two, and they’re not taking any new patients. In Pefferlaw, there is just one family doctor.
Add to this the chronic shortage of long-term care beds, and you have something akin to a health care crisis brewing.
Indeed, in a recent interview with The Post, Arden Krystal, the president and CEO of Southlake, acknowledged that Georgina, on a proportional population basis, is underserved for primary care.
Clearly, something needs to be done and fast.
While the town should be congratulated for recently inking a deal with York Region, which will see a public health nurse set-up shop in the Link, a cursory glance through the town’s 2019 budget indicated that not a penny has been allocated to health care services.
The town will argue that it is the responsibility of the province and York Region. Well, technically correct, it doesn’t have to be that way.
After all, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) recently published a report entitled “Partners for a Healthy Ontario,” which acknowledges the critical role municipalities should play in improving health care services and outcomes.
In fact, the town could allocate development charges towards emergency medical services, but for whatever reason has chosen not to do so.
Meanwhile, the town relies on GCHCC for direction in all matters medical.
But GCHCC, a small non-profit staffed by volunteers, receives no public monies and relies solely on private donations.
Although the GCHCC has done a commendable job advocating for better health care services and recruiting doctors to set-up shop in Georgina, by its own admission the task of completing a site plan, obtaining building permits and raising funds for the construction of a new medical clinic is beyond its scope.
Isn’t it about time for the town to take a more active role in ensuring its residents have access to quality health care?
If the town can find $500K to improve parking lots for community halls in Udora and Belhaven, why can’t it find $500K through development charges to help fund a new medical centre that could include a 24-hour emergency clinic on Dalton Rd?
It’s not only vital for the community. It also makes business sense. For a $500K investment, the town would have a majority share in a long-term asset that generates rental income.
And with GNPLC as a core tenant, the town could attract other medical professionals and possibly even medical service companies, like diagnostic labs. It would be a win-win for the town and its residents.
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