Powassan and Area FHT officially opens new home

January 21, 2019

The North Bay Nipissing article published on January 21, 2019

By Laurel J. Campbell

Powassan Town Square building gets thumbs up from residents, politicians, medical professionals

POWASSAN — Over 100 people toured the new medical clinic during its grand opening on Jan. 18.

“This is a wonderful centre,” said Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli. “Its state-of-the-art technology and equipment provides the utmost in quality care and the layout and services offered here really put the patient first.”

The new home of the Powassan and Area Family Health Team encompasses over 6,700 square feet in the Powassan Town Square building at 507 Main Street; five physicians, a nurse practitioner, two registered practical nurses, a mental health co-ordinator, and administrative and support staff work out of the space, which is also home to a foot care nurse, a certified diabetic health care educator, and a home and community care co-ordinator.

“Integrating family health care services, such as are provided here, with the rest of our health care system is critically important,” said Fedeli. “The advantages offered by this medical centre will attract new health care professionals and allow for even more expansion of practices and acceptance of new patients in the future. This facility goes a long way in helping to cut hospital wait times and hallway care by providing for patients in their own community.”

“For this building to happen partnerships had to be established with the province, the municipality, the developer, the health team and board, and be the doctors. A lot of negotiation went on and a lot of trust had to be established.” — Peter McIsaacSheila Latour, chair of the family health team board, smiled at the irony of Fedeli’s comment.

“We helped define the term 'hallway medicine' at our previous location on King Street,” she said. “We had nurses in the halls delivering medications because we didn’t have enough office space. We played musical rooms. If someone wasn’t in on a given day, we’d put the foot care nurse in their space. Then she’d be in a different office next time. We had patients being weighed in the corridor, and when we wanted to hold patient education sessions we had to close the reception room, because it was the only place we could meet.”

The new clinic has 10 examination rooms “so we don’t have to shuffle patients in and out of rooms during their visit,” said family health team executive director Anna Gibson-Olagos. “The doctors also have a large bullpen, a shared collaborative space for their office needs, and all the charting and notes that are involved outside of actually seeing the patient. It’s nice and big, so they can use it for meetings as well.”

There are also rooms dedicated to dietary consultation, counselling, board meetings and public and patient education, IT storage, administration, a procedure room that fits a family, and a large staff kitchen.

“If we wanted to have a staff lunch meeting before, we had to do it in the reception area when there were no patients waiting,” said Gibson-Olajos. “Our fridge, like our medications, was in the hallway. Now we have a room where we can have informal meetings, and a space where staff can just get away for a few minutes of solitude on a rough or emotional day.”

The close quarters at the former medical centre also caused concerns over patient comfort and privacy, especially in the case of an emergency.

“On occasion, we do have to call 911 for a patient,” Gibson-Olajos said. “At the previous clinic, the ambulance came to the front door and the stretcher came in through the waiting room, and had to stop in the hallway while the patient got dragged out of the examining room. There was no dignity or privacy for anyone.

“We now have a separate entrance at the side of the building that leads directly to the examination hallways, and is designed for emergency use of stretchers and other equipment without anyone in reception or the counselling rooms being any the wiser. We’ve already had to use it once and it worked so much better for the patient, the EMS and the doctors involved.”

Mayor Peter McIsaac said that the Powassan Town Square building “will be the corner stone of the community for the next 100 years or more,” and credited developer Sante Tomaselli for his foresight.

“Mr. Tomaselli has made a huge investment in Powassan,” said McIsaac. “For this building to happen partnerships had to be established with the province, the municipality, the developer, the health team and board, and the doctors. A lot of negotiation went on and a lot of trust had to be established.”

The vision of getting the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care to award a family health team to Powassan came from the former Municipality of Powassan Economic Development (MoPED) committee that did the work on the proposal and application in 2010.

“After the health team was granted, one of the first things the ministry did was send someone to look at our medical clinic,” recalled Latour, who was a MoPED board member at the time. “He took one look around and said we would need a new building. It’s taken us eight years to get this far, and thanks to Mr. Tomaselli working with us in designing his building, we hope to make this a health care hub for Powassan and surrounding communities.”

“Powassan is the heart of good living,” said McIsaac, “and the opening of this new medical facility today has proven it.”

Click here to access the North Bay Nipissing article