‘A medical desert’: Much-needed clinic opens in Montreal neighbourhood

Click to play video: 'Parc-Extension residents get new clinic'
Parc-Extension residents get new clinic
Residents of Parc-Extension now have a new clinic. It marks another step in addressing what advocates say is a serious lack of access to healthcare in the area. But as Global’s Phil Carpenter reports, even more resources are needed and the clinic faces challenges because of government policies – Apr 26, 2024

A building at the corner of Stuart and Ogilvy in Montreal’s Parc-Extension neighbourhood that once housed a funeral home has recently been given new life.

It’s now Novomed Clinic, meant to help fix a serious lack of access to health care in this part of the city.

“Parc-Extension is considered a medical desert,” medical director Dr. Jhanzaib Sherwani says. “It’s a very heavily populated area, 33,000 people in 1.6 square kilometres.”

Sherwani, who pushed for five years to get this clinic opened, says there’s a big lack of primary care, specialty care and urgent care medicine in Parc Ex. The problem, says Mary Deros, city councillor of Montreal’s Villeray–Saint-Michel–Parc-Extension, is too few medical facilities in the area and not enough doctors.

“I know of four doctors that have gone private, which means if you want to go see your family doctor, you’re going to pay $200,” she says.

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She adds that many others have retired.

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Sherwani also observes that the area is very ethnically diverse and not many physicians speak the language of the residents. On top of that, several people in the area are older and can’t travel to get to a hospital or health facility elsewhere.

“So, I find in the Parc-Extensions area there’s a lot of chronic diseases going unchecked, a lot of acute issues which are going undiagnosed,” he tells Global News.

His aim with this clinic: to plug some of those gaps. It started opening gradually last fall as construction wrapped up. Services include urgent care, family medicine, perinatal care and specialty medicine. So far they have six doctors: a neurologist, a dermatologist and four family doctors.

Included among the family physicians is Dr. Vitushaa Panchadcharam, who speaks five languages and got her licence last year.

“We do have a long list of patients who are waiting to join this clinic,” she says. “We are taking exclusively off of the (provincial) waiting list, and so patients who are on the wait-list have now some hope.”

Panchadcharam alone has registered nearly 900 patients but says they are having problems recruiting doctors because of how provincial licences are issued.

“We don’t have enough licences to practise that are being allocated to newly minted doctors working in the area,” she points out, explaining that the number of physicians determines how many patients they can serve, which in turn determines whether the clinic meets the threshold to get funding from the health board to hire more support staff.

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Sherwani is optimistic, however, since the facility fills a vital need to save lives. A ceremony to mark to clinic’s official opening will be held May 5, once all construction has been completed.


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