Peterborough Community Health Centre to open temporarily at Peterborough Square

Click to play video: 'Peterborough Community Health Centre leases temporary home'
Peterborough Community Health Centre leases temporary home
Organizers of the new Peterborough Community Health Centre are making headway on opening their doors. The health resource, once opened, is expected to provide much-needed help to residents lacking primary health care. Robert Lothian explains.

The newly established Peterborough Community Health Centre will begin with a temporary space in the city’s downtown.

On Wednesday during Peterborough County council’s regular meeting, PCHC board chair Johnathan Bennett and interim co-executive director Christine Brander provided an update on the primary care initiative, including revealing that its new temporary home will be at the Peterborough Square mall at 360 George St. N.

The centre will use the space that formerly housed TD Bank, which left in October 2021.

Bennett says it is Phase 1 of the community health centre (CHC), which will use the space temporarily for up to 12 months.

“We want to see patients as fast as we can,” Bennett told council. “We want to hire physicians, allied health and everything we need to stand up this organization from scratch, so we opted for a 12-month lease.”

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In February, the province announced over $3 million for the PCHC  as part of $110 million provincewide for primary care. The programs and services the PCHC aims to provide include comprehensive primary care, mental health services, chronic disease management, and culturally appropriate care provided by traditional wellness practitioners.

The PCHC has already “integrated” with other community health services and programs, Bennett noted.

“We’re going to open our doors as fast as we can,” Bennett said. “(Peterborough Square) was deemed the most likely candidate to convert quickly into some appropriate clinic space and see patients quickly.”

A search for an interim space is underway. Plans for a permanent space are “way down the road,” Bennett said.

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“There are a lot of CHCs with interim spaces that could last up to 10 years,” he said. “We’re really going to take our time to make sure we pick an interim space that’s really going to meet our needs for growth and scale over several years ahead.”

A campaign for the PCHC was launched in February 2023, seeking $8.2 million annually from the province. The aim is to serve 6,000 marginalized individuals. The province has estimated more than 11,375 people could be connected to primary care via the new CHC.

To date, the province has provided base funding of $4.8 million — the largest awarded in all of Ontario Health’s East Region, Brander notes. The protected funding will provide four full-time equivalent physicians and 3.5 full-time equivalent nurse practitioners.

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“The rest of the human resource budget will go towards allied health — interprofesssional team-based primary care because that’s where primary care has been moving,” she said.

Click to play video: 'Ontario announces $110 million for primary care recruitment'
Ontario announces $110 million for primary care recruitment

Peterborough County Deputy Warden Sherry Senis — mayor of Selwyn Township — inquired if the PCHC anticipated if any current doctors serving in the city and county would leave their existing practice to join the PCHC, “thereby leaving a vacuum.”

Bennett says the PCHC is “sensitive” to the movement of physicians. However, he says because the CHC is focused on primary care, and that it is based on a salaried model, he anticipates “net new” doctors to the community.

“They make actually already live here but work somewhere else,” Bennett explained. “That’s sort of our hope. Rest assured, we are very sensitive — it doesn’t help if we rob Peter to pay Paul, as it were.

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“At the end of the day, physicians are going to make whatever career choice that they’re going to make, but it’s really front of mind for us.”

Brander added that physicians tend to have a “diversification of practice,” and stressed that four FTE physicians does not equate to four full-time positions.

“I would not see — if my experience — a physician just leaving, say, the Family Health Team, and just de-rostering all of those patients. That’s not where we are going.”

Brander also added that the CHC has started “making connections” with the family medicine program at Queen’s University.

Bennett and Brander say the goal is to commence client services by the end of 2024 for what they say is the first funded CHC in Ontario in 15 years, bringing with it up to 30 new health-care jobs.

More details will be forthcoming on how to connect with the CHC’s primary care services.

“We’re putting our flag in the ground and trying to get patients in the door and hire human resources as quickly as possible,” Bennett said.

— more to come

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