By Mike Anderson
Clinic Director Beth Cowper-Fung and her GNPLC staff were literally jumping for joy after Health Georgina Chair Steve Jacobson officially handed over the keys last week to their new building at 21071 Dalton Rd. in Jackson’s Point.
“We’re just so excited to be in the new building,” said Cowper-Fung. “This has been a long time coming.”
“We’re getting back into a state-of-the-art medical facility, which is amazing for the Town, as there’s been a long history of healthcare on this site. Dr. George Burrows was our consulting physician when we first took over in 2011; he stayed on with us pretty much until the day he passed.”
While the building’s outer shell, which Kenstruct Ltd. began constructing last April, has been completed, the interior renovations, funded by a $1.6 million provincial grant, will start next week and are slated to be finished by August.
Barrie-based Bertram Construction Ltd. was awarded the contract after submitting the lowest of four bids.
Health Georgina provided the initial $1.3 million for the building’s construction.
But skyrocketing material costs during the pandemic forced the volunteer-run, not-for-profit organization to seek donations from the community, with residents contributing $220,000 to the project so far.
“It’s very exciting, very gratifying to see this come to fruition,” Jacobson said. “There’s a lot of people in the community to thank.”
“I’d also like to thank the Town of Georgina for working with us to get it done and giving us back a fair amount of funds that we paid in fees. There were also a lot of local people who worked pro bono. And, of course, I had a great team who were extremely dedicated.”
The Georgina Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinic (GNPLC) originally opened in July 2011 at the same Dalton Rd. location, the former practice of the late Dr. George Burrows.
However, the older building contained asbestos insulation, so it couldn’t be renovated, and GNPLC had to look for a new location.
But that search was put on hold when the building burned down in January 2018, forcing GNPLC to move to its current location at 152 High St.
“It’s been quite a long journey,” Cowper-Fung said.
“I was standing at the roadside on January 14 when the building burned, and we were very fortunate that we had access to 152 High St. by the next day, and we’re up and seeing our patients again within 47 hours.”
While Cowper-Fung is grateful that the Town and community pulled together to get GNPLC a new temporary home, she says the location is not ideal.
“We are in a difficult, tight building right now. That’s not really meant for the work that’s happening,” she said.
“We are on two different floors, two different sides of a hallway. There’s no intercom, so if you want to communicate anything, you have to take a run.”
“It’s going to be wonderful to get into this new facility where we have an enhanced HVAC system, additional examination rooms, a boardroom with an adjacent kitchen to accommodate education sessions, and a dedicated lab space. I’m really excited, and when we get all our equipment over here, it’ll be fantastic.”
Cowper-Fung also says the additional space will allow the clinic to take on more patients.
“Once we get settled, and everything gets moving along, then we can do a community assessment and see how many more people are looking for primary healthcare. And once we know that we can always expand in this site,” she said.
GNPLC currently has 3,500 registered patients, which, according to Cowper-Fung, can be expanded to 3,800. And, with the addition of another nurse practitioner, she says the clinic could add another 800 patients.
“It’s fabulous to work in a lovely place. It’s doubly fabulous to be able to provide care to patients in a lovely environment,” she said.
“There’ll be electric doors here. So it’s going to be easier for patients to get in and out. There’s more parking. And communication for the staff will be better because we’ll be all on one floor.”
While the outside of the building is complete, there is still landscaping to be done, including a possible parkette and the placement of a granite stone next to the entrance, with a commemorative plaque recognizing Dr. Burrows.
Health Georgina is still accepting donations through its website, www.healthgeorgina.ca.
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