/Kawartha North Family Health Team clears the air

Kawartha North Family Health Team clears the air

By Emily Stonehouse

On Friday June 9, a room of well over 100 people sat on plastic chairs in the Minden Community Centre waiting for the one thing they’ve been looking for since the announcement of the Minden Emergency Department (ED) closure on April 20: answers. 

But these weren’t clear-cut answers from the HHHS Board or local politicians. 

They were answers from the executive director of the Kawartha North Family Health Team (KNFHT), Marina Hodson. The information session was designed to unpack a proposal put forward by the KNFHT for the opening of an urgent care clinic, housed in the former Minden ED site. 

“I’m here today to do a Q and A,” Hodson started, “to answer questions about a proposal I put forward, as well as to tell you a little bit about who I am, who Kawartha North Family Health Team is, and what my plans are.”

“What I’m not here to do,” she went on,  “is to talk about or for other people. I can only speak for myself and my agency. I don’t know what other people are doing, what their intentions are, so I want to really just focus on what the plan is.” 

Hodson stuck to this promise throughout the entirety of the Q and A, often stopping folks who were getting riled up in regards to the HHHS and governmental figures (or the absence thereof) throughout the duration of her two-hour session. 

Hodson addressed the rumours that are swirling around online about her personal benefit in regards to the proposal of the KNFHT in the community. “I want to start by saying that there is no profit to be had,” she said, “including for myself.” Hodson went on to share her lengthy list of not-for-profit work throughout her career. “I’ve never been in for-profit,” she told the applauding crowd. 

While Hodson noted that she is unable to open another ED, as that is beyond her scope of experience, she is able to propose to move forward with an urgent care clinic. When funding became available from Ontario Health, she jumped on the opportunity. 

Hodson promptly connected with HHHS, Tim Waite from the paramedic department, and other partners in the community to see if this was feasible to create. 

The deadline for the funding application was June 16. “Obviously this is a really time sensitive issue,” she said, noting that she completed the application within three days due to the nature of the project. “I just wanted to apply for the funding, let’s get the money first, then we can figure out what people want, what people need, how do we best implement this so it serves our community.” 

While Hodson was not certain whether she would receive the funding, she said she remains hopeful. “The government is listening, the ministry is listening, so let’s hope they’ll actually put the money where their mouth is.” 

Out of the Q and A session, one question that arose repeatedly was inquiring about the difference between an emergency department and an urgent care clinic. 

Hodson clarified that an urgent care clinic can treat issues that are of “quite immediate need” but not necessarily life threatening; including sutures, stitches, and staples. “I’m hoping that by doing this, we can actually alleviate some of the demand that is being put on the emergency department,” she said. The facility would also be for those who do not have primary care physicians, so folks can have access to medical care without going to the ED. 

It was noted that Hodson applied for the funding of two nurse practitioners, but at this time, no physicians. She believes that overall, a team of ten nurse practitioners would be effective at the site, so the KNFHT is actively recruiting and trying to hire at this time.

Listeners in the crowd grew concerned with the lack of physicians at the new site, requesting clarity about what the scope of practice is for nurse practitioners. Hodson said that beyond a few specialty referrals due to funding, “outside of that, they can absolutely do anything that a physician can do at this point, including prescriptions.”

When asked about hours of operation, Hodson shared that  she intends to be open seven days a week, though she noted that she is not an expert on emergencies, and would be flexible to changing hours based on interest and needs of the area. While the clinic would not be 24-hours at this time, Hodson hopes that “this is a starting point, not an end point,” and hopes to increase the hours as it continues to grow. 

While there was trepidation in the crowd in regards to the involvement of HHHS, Hodson clarified that “they would only be my landlord,” and that they would have no involvement in the goings-on of the clinic for the community. With that said, she did share that if KNFHT were to receive the funding for the clinic, a flexible lease would be made to ensure that the clinic would close if the opportunity for an ED presented itself once again. 

Hodson reiterated multiple times that the nurse practitioners would be receiving a salary through the funding, therefore this is not a private clinic, and certainly not a step towards the privatization of healthcare in Ontario; which was a growing concern throughout the Minden  ED closure debacle. 

While there are currently no physicians slated to start at the clinic should funding permit, it was noted that Hodson and her team had every intention of reaching out to former Minden ED doctors in an attempt to request their return in the future. 

When asked about next steps to an engaged and active crowd, Hodson said that momentum is at a standstill until the funding is confirmed. “Once we get the funding, then we can move forward,” she said, “right now, it is at the ministry level, it’s beyond the government level.” 

Hodson patiently answered every question in the crowd for over two-hours, and once the questions had been exhausted, she was joined on stage by Minden Matters organizer Patrick Porzuczek to conclude the Q and A. Porzuczek noted that the end goal is still a Minden ED, but an urgent care clinic was a step in the right direction. “None of us are going to give up hope,” he said. “We all believe in the hope, and we all believe we can make a change.”