Family health team expansion in the works for Carleton Place

September 14, 2022

Inside Ottawa Valley Published an article on September 10, 2022

By Tara Gesner

Beckwith local Karen Simpson feels strongly that Carleton Place needs a family health team to serve Beckwith and Carleton Place residents.

“I see the benefits of a family health team through my work in Arnprior,” she told Carleton Place council on Aug. 23.

Simpson is the executive director of the Arnprior and District Family Health Team and is aiding Ottawa Valley Family Health Team (OVFHT) executive director Peter Hamer to bring a family health team to Carleton Place.

“Not having a family health team in Carleton Place makes it much more difficult to recruit physicians,” Simpson said. “Family physicians look for team-based care these days.

“Carleton Place and Beckwith are growing significantly, looking at projections, so we know we will need more physicians,” she added.

A family health team is a community-centred primary care organization whose programs and services are geared to the population groups it serves. Located in Almonte, the OVFHT is funded by the province’s Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC).

According to Hamer, the MOHLTC has a significant interest in expanding the teams, but almost none in creating new ones. Hence, an application is before the Ministry of Health, submitted in May 2022, for the extension of the OVFHT.

The proposal looks at additional nurse practitioners, registered nurses, registered practical nurses, mental health workers, dietitians, pharmacists, respiratory therapists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and psychologists. They offer a myriad of programs and services — from individual ones provided to patients but also those aimed at health prevention to management of chronic illness (diabetes, obesity, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, frailty in older adults, hypertension, cardiopulmonary rehabilitation and more).

“We want to bring these allied health-care professionals and resources into Carleton Place,” Hamer noted. “It is both a significant need and value for the Carleton Place and Beckwith communities.”

He explained: “If you are a patient of a doctor in Carleton Place and need to see a psychotherapist, dietician, diabetic educator, etc., you pay for these programs and services if you do not have benefits. However, you do not pay if you have a family health team that supports your doctor.”

In Almonte, the OVFHT is co-located with the municipality’s doctors but physicians are not participants in the team.

Carleton Place physicians voted unanimously to support the extension of the OVFHT, recognizing it as a retention and recruitment strategy.

“This was a key component,” Hamer stressed. “We needed to have the physicians buy into it.”
Another critical piece to making this successful is finding a location — creating a space to colocate the physicians with the family health team.

“Across the province, it is the model that works the best,” Hamer indicated.

Currently, there are five offices in Carleton Place and Beckwith that house the family physicians.

“We are working hard with some developers and the family health team resources to bring everybody under one roof,” Hamer stated. “This is what new graduates want.”

The ministry has recommended the OVFHT form a working group that involves members (individuals, politicians, etc.) from the two municipalities. Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston MPP John Jordan has already agreed to participate as well as representatives from Beckwith and the health-care sector.

“Carleton Place council’s support means everything because it is by working together that we will move this forward and get it funded,” Simpson said.

With the upcoming municipal election, Mayor Doug Black commented: “No matter who is elected, I am sure you would get support for this initiative. It is long overdue.”

“Carleton Place is a lovely town with a really good hospital and some really dedicated health-care professionals who want to do good things for the community,” Hamer pointed out.

Simpson and Hamer also met with Beckwith council earlier this summer.

The OVFHT executive director is confident ministry approval will come by the end of this calendar year or fiscal year (March 2023).

“Fingers-crossed it goes through, but I do not have any doubts,” Hamer expressed.