The Niagara-on-the-Lake doctors currently in offices in the former Old Town hospital building hope to have a new home by January, 2022.
The group has formalized an agreement with John and Adam Hawley of The Village to construct a medical centre behind the CIBC bank. A single-storey building will provide ground-level access to health care, in an accessible location in an established commercial area.
It will have offices for Dr. Iram Ahmed, Dr. Tim Bastedo, Dr. Karen Berti, Dr. Samreen Malik and Dr. Pratik Kalani.
The rest of the doctors in the Niagara North Family Health, currently in the Niagara Medical Clinic, will stay there, or find other locations, says Mary Keith, executive director of Niagara North Family Health Team.
Residents gathered in the community centre in 2016 heard a health care steering committee, formed in 2013, was looking at options for a health hub, with all doctors of the health team under one roof, and options for locations were investigated, ending with the Crossroads proposal.
Keith said the delay of that development, with no idea when it would be resolved, left doctors “unable to commit” to that project.
The lack of other locations with sufficient parking for patients of all the doctors provided a stumbling block to having them all together under one roof, says Keith.
A proposal by Lloyd Redekopp to build a medical centre beside Crossroads School that would accommodate all the doctors and health services has been stalled by an appeal to the Local Planning Tribunal, still with no date yet for the appeal to be heard.
Efforts to find a home for the medical group have been ongoing for more than seven years, says a release from the health team, beginning with news of the eventual closure of the NOTL Hospital.
The Village site will have sufficient parking for the patients of the Old Town doctors, but not for the entire Niagara-on-the-Lake health team.
“There are not a lot of spaces that would accommodate 11 physicians, the full team and adequate parking,” Keith says.
The design for the new building is not finished yet, she adds, and she’s not ruling out that there might be space for a specialist physician, but there won’t be room for all the family doctors.
In addition to the Old Town physicians, it will house nurse practitioners, a diabetes support team, registered dietitians, a mental health team, chiropody and foot care, nurse educators and occupational therapy. The building will also be home to family health team group programming, administration staff and the executive director of the team.
“The decision of the doctors to move from the old hospital to the Village is a welcomed step in creating stability for the doctors, Niagara North Family Health Team and the community,” says Lord Mayor Betty Disero about Wednesday’s announcement form the health team. “While the proposed health hub will not house as many doctors as originally planned, the synergy will provide opportunities for services not currently provided.”
Redekopp says LPAT has been slowed by the pandemic, and he’s heard nothing about when the appeal will be heard.
“I thought we would have this get through sooner. But because of COVID that hasn’t happened,” he says.
There were originally two objections to his plan, one about storm water management that has been resolved. The remaining challenge comes from Anthony Annunziata, the owner of the Niagara Medical Clinic in Virgil, who had plans to expand the Niagara Stone Road and Line 2 building to accommodate all the doctors. He objected to the rezoning of Redekopp’s property from residential to commercial, necessary for the project to proceed.
Redekopp says he’s disappointed that this wasn’t dealt with “in a timely fashion. I’m extremely disappointed in the LPAT process.”
He doesn’t know yet if Annunziata will remove his objection, but Redekopp says he plans to proceed with his project, although the design and size of the building may change.
“I still feel there’s a real need for a medical centre,” he says, possibly attracting specific medical services, such as a lab and X-ray department.
“The pandemic brought to light what health care in town should look like. I look forward to a resolution to this. I see no reason to stop right now.”