CBC news published an article Apr 29, 2023
By Ben Andrews
At first, Peter Hamer thought the empty lot in Carleton Place, Ont., was destined to become a standard medical clinic.
With an estimated 4,000 residents in the area without a family doctor, the project would help address a need.
But as work progressed, Hamer began to see the outline of "something much more interesting."
"Instead of just bringing doctors in one building, we also want to bring other health service providers," said Hamer, the executive director of the Ottawa Valley Family Health Team.
"All the ancillary health service providers that are in the geographic area under one roof."
The idea to bring a team of health-care workers — including doctors, nurses, dietitians, mental health workers and others — together in a single health centre located about 50 kilometres southwest of downtown Ottawa may be "paving a new approach" for rural health care, he said.
The Ontario College of Family Physicians estimates more than 2 million Ontarians are without a family doctor, and those shortages are felt more acutely in rural and remote parts of the province.
That competitive market is pitting municipalities in Ontario against each other in creative attempts to lure family doctors.
Many small towns are sweetening the pot for prospective physicians by offering direct cash incentives in exchange for a commitment to practise in the community.
But cash alone doesn't guarantee a desirable work environment, and Hamer said the goal in Carleton Place is to create a different competitive model.
"It's about the environment," he said. "If you can offset the costs associated with that, then it's a really easy sell."
Carleton Place Mayor Toby Randell said the town's relatively limited budget pushed it to "think outside the box."
The health centre is the product of a partnership between Carleton Place, the nearby Township of Beckwith, the developer MNH Group and the Ottawa Valley Family Health Team, a group of family physicians who practise in the area.
Set to open in fall 2024, the health centre is currently under construction at the end of Costello Drive on a plot of land that had been set aside for a new hospital until provincial funding dried up.