Communities in the Almaguin Highlands will soon have a physiotherapist dedicated to their area.
The development is the result of 10 municipalities working together to help a physiotherapist get his practice established.
Armour Coun. Rod Ward, chair of the Almaguin Highlands Health Council, says the health council bought into a recommendation to cover the rent of the physiotherapist for the first six months of his operation.
Ward says the health council drafted a resolution members took back to their councils asking each to contribute a one-time $606.81 toward the physiotherapist's rent.
The total rent for the six-month period will be $6,070. The resolution is only now beginning to show up at municipal council meetings and so far Armour, Burk's Falls, Sundridge, Perry, McMurrich/Monteith and Strong have approved the request.
Ward is very confident all 10 municipalities will contribute.
“One of the things we do is look for opportunities to help healthcare providers,” Ward said.
“It could be something as simple as providing information about the Almaguin Highlands and what we're all about. But it's also as big as soliciting the 10 municipalities to sweeten the pot a little so it's more attractive for someone to come here.”
Ward says because the physiotherapist would only be starting up his practice, it will take time for him to build up a clientele.
“So he suggested operating rent free for the first six months,” Ward said.
“That would take the pressure off him as he starts up.”
Ward said the physiotherapist will operate out of the former office of Dr. David Dempster in Burk's Falls. Dempster retired earlier this year.
Ward adds he'd like to see a small sign placed in the office recognizing the contribution of the municipalities to help bring a physiotherapist to Almaguin.
“It would show the public that there's a partnership between the municipalities and healthcare providers and that's good for everybody,” he said.
The health council will know in just a few weeks if all the municipal councils agree to their one-tenth share but added “I'm pretty confident that we'll be in good shape.”
The remaining municipalities expected to provide financial aid to the rent program are Magnetawan, Kearney, Joly and Ryerson.
Ryerson has the request on its agenda for the Nov. 2 meeting of council.
Ward says there is a strong need in Almaguin for a physiotherapist.
Kevin MacLeod, executive director of the Burk's Falls Family Health Team, was at the September meeting of the health council and was interested when the discussion turned to bringing a physiotherapist to the area.
“We have ongoing conversations with our healthcare providers and Kevin attends our monthly meetings,” Ward said.
“So we have a sense of what's required. When this came up, Kevin was excited because they don't have a physiotherapist at the Family Health Team. The Family Health Team often refers patients to a physiotherapist in Huntsville, North Bay or other community.”
But Ward says bringing a physiotherapist to Almaguin is a game changer.
It means people in need of physiotherapy don't have to drive distances that are as long as they are now.
“And it's been a challenge for people who live in the rural areas,” he said.
“Their drives can easily take 45 to 50 minutes one way and with physiotherapy treatment, some people make that trip once or twice a week.”
Ward says if everything falls into place, the physiotherapist can move into Dempster's former office by January.
Ward also points out that although the physiotherapist will occupy Dempster's former office site, the Burk's Falls area has not lost a doctor.
Dempster was replaced by another physician in September who works out of the Family Health Team building in Burk's Falls.
“It just happened to work out this way, it wasn't by design,” Ward said.
“So we didn't lose a doctor and as a bonus we got a physiotherapist.” Ward's words were not lost on Sundridge Mayor Lyle Hall.
When Sundridge council approved the $606.81 amount as its share of the rent subsidy program Oct. 27, Hall said “medical and healthcare is definitely building in the area.”
The Almaguin municipal councils are each getting a letter from Burk's Falls Mayor Cathy Still detailing the need for the one-tenth contribution from the member municipalities of the health council.
In the letter, Still says Burk's Falls was approached by physiotherapist Dr. Joe Palocaren, who is in Huntsville, about setting up shop in Almaguin.
Still says Palocaren asked Burk's Falls for the rent help which resulted in the call going out to the other municipalities.
In the letter, Still says Burk's Falls is fortunate to have physiotherapy services in post-surgery situations but Palocaren will fill the patient services gap for residents from Huntsville to Powassan.
Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
Rocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The North Bay Nugget