Just what the doc­tors or­dered

Re­zon­ing means $3.5M Blue­wa­ter Fam­ily clinic ex­pan­sion could be­gin as early as Novem­ber

The Observer (Sarnia) - - FRONT PAGE - TYLER KULA

Shov­els should be in the ground by Novem­ber on a $3.5-mil­lion med­i­cal clinic ex­pan­sion a pair of Sar­nia docs are banking will at­tract young MDs to the area.

“We’re cer­tainly re­ally ex­cited,” said Dr. John O’Ma­hony, one of two fam­ily physi­cians in­vest­ing in the newly dubbed Blue­wa­ter Fam­ily Medicine Cen­tre off Lon­don Road.

Sar­nia city coun­cil on Mon­day ap­proved a re­zon­ing needed for the docs to bull­doze a pair of res­i­den­tial prop­er­ties they’ve ac­quired and build more park­ing spa­ces.

The ex­tra spa­ces are needed to ac­com­mo­date the planned two-storey, 8,500-square-foot ex­pan­sion on the south side of the ex­ist­ing hos­pi­tal-ad­ja­cent clinic.

That’s key be­cause the new model — a col­lab­o­ra­tive, team-based clinic that new grad­u­ates tend to opt for over solo prac­tices — is in­her­it­ing more than 4,000 pa­tients from a pair of re­tir­ing docs in June, said O’Ma­hony.

There’s space to ac­com­mo­date them for the short term at the ex­ist­ing site, he said, be­fore the ex­pan­sion’s planned open­ing in Au­gust.

“But if there was a de­lay and we couldn’t build un­til April or May, it would cer­tainly be a con­cern for us,” he said.

He and fel­low clinic man­ager Dr. Sean Peter­son have al­ready signed on one new grad­u­ate and are court­ing oth­ers, he said, while en­cour­ag­ing physi­cians con­tem­plat­ing re­tire­ment in a few years to move their prac­tices so they can have their pa­tient records con­verted to elec­tronic files and even­tu­ally trans­fer those to the new prac­tice.

“There’s a lot of in­ter­est al­ready,” O’Ma­hony said.

The model, de­signed to mimic teach­ing sites that in­clude so­cial work­ers, nurse prac­ti­tion­ers and a group of physi­cians work­ing in tan­dem, has been want­ing in Sar­nia, said Coun. Cindy Scholten, for­merly a re­cruiter with the Sar­nia-Lambton Physi­cian Re­cruit­ment Task­force.

“Be­cause I can tell you that the younger grad­u­ates want to be in an en­vi­ron­ment where it’s a group health set­ting,” she said, not­ing Sar­nia’s lack has been a stum­bling block for re­cruit­ing new On­tario grad­u­ates in the past.

“Here you have some lo­cal res­i­dents, lo­cal in­vestors, lo­cal health care tal­ent, will­ing to in­vest their own money to cre­ate that model and fa­cil­ity,” she said, adding it’s “def­i­nitely some­thing the com­mu­nity needs.”

No­body is look­ing for solo prac­tice any­more, said O’Ma­hony, also an ad­junct pro­fes­sor at Western Univer­sity who teaches med­i­cal stu­dents and fam­ily medicine res­i­dents.

About 10 Sar­nia doc­tors, he said ear­lier this year, will be 70 or older in the next five years and many likely will be look­ing to re­tire.

Some­one will need to take on their pa­tients, he said.

“And if we don’t do this, it’s go­ing to be hard to ac­tu­ally re­cruit th­ese docs.”

The ex­pan­sion is ex­pected to bring seven new doc­tors to the area and, com­bined with other docs al­ready in the clinic space, should even­tu­ally care for about 25,000 pa­tients, O’Ma­hony said.

Work on the park­ing lot — boost­ing the num­ber of spa­ces to 126 from 84 — is ex­pected to start in late Oc­to­ber, he said.

Coun. Bev MacDougall said she wants to be sure the site plan can han­dle in­creased traf­fic, and called for coun­cil to get a look at that fi­nal­ized plan be­fore the project goes ahead.

“I’m 100 per cent in sup­port of this clinic and it’s ex­pan­sion,” she said, but noted “our re­spon­si­bil­ity is to shape good de­vel­op­ment and to keep our streets safe.”

Of­fi­cials with the project noted they’re also in talks with Blue­wa­ter Health to use some of the hos­pi­tal’s ter­ri­tory to get in and out of the lot.

A third-party re­port backs the plan, O’Ma­hony said.

TYLER KULA/THE OB­SERVER

Dr. John O'Ma­hony stands out­side the Lon­don Road med­i­cal clinic where a $3.5-mil­lion ex­pan­sion is planned. The move is ex­pected to at­tract seven new doc­tors to Sar­nia.

Scholten

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