For over 20 years, the francophone community of Timmins has clamoured for the full availability of community health services in their own language.
Michelle Stevens, the executive director for the Centre de santé communautaire de Timmins, sees potential for that need to be met through the Ontario government's recent commitment of over $ 10 million for a new facility that will be located at 120 Kent Ave.
"Since 1989 actually the francophone community was lobbying for this CSC, to open to service this community," said Stevens.
She noted past issues with having to outsource services outside the centre when it began offering services in 2019, due to the limitations of space and positions.
"A lot of them have been waiting to be serviced in their language for a very long time. This also increased the complexity in their cases, in their health care file," she said.
Stevens pointed to the issues that arise when there is a level of language removed between the patient and health care worker.
"My favourite expression is that it's not just speaking French, but it's speaking the culture," said Stevens.
Stevens intends for the new facility to be what she calls "a one-stop-shop" for a wide range of community health services, including physiotherapy and psychology. A consequence of this intended growth is a search to fill many new potential positions, from within the community and beyond.
"Already we are posting for jobs in the community for some of our positions. We're going to continue that process," said Stevens, noting they are looking for foot care specialists to help patients with diabetes, a dietitian, and people to coordinate health care services for patients both inside the Centre and through its partnering agencies.
"We're not there to duplicate services, but we are there to ensure our francophones have equal amounts of services," she said, explaining that someone who can understand a patient's language can help them reach out for the programs they need.
Stevens also envisions the new facility as a basis to recruit and retain new doctors to the area.
"Physical space is a tool to recruit. If we're trying to recruit people from down south, or even overseas, and they see that there's investment from the government to improve health care, then we'll have their commitment as well. At least we hope," she said.
According to Stevens, the CSC is still in the process of hiring an architectural firm and project manager, but she is hopeful that the building will be built and services offered from it by 2024 or 2025. She acknowledged that a great deal of work has been needed already and remains ahead, but remains willing to tackle it.
"There's a shortage of 28 doctors in the community, that keeps me motivated. The need for health care in Northern Ontario keeps me motivated. I'm not done, this is only the beginning," said Stevens.
Mark Kay, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, TimminsToday.com