Sundridge and District Medical Centre is now fully modernized after $1.49-million massive renovation

·4 min read

The Sundridge and District Medical Centre may have an easier time attracting healthcare professionals in the future.

That's the strong belief of Doctor Sarah MacKinnon, one of two practising physicians at the facility.

MacKinnon was part of a Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC) announcement to mark the end of an extensive $1.49-million renovation of the medical centre.

She said the modernized facility will also result in “better patient care”.

Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP Graydon Smith was at the medical centre where he announced the NOHFC grant of $744,567 to cover half the renovations.

Sundridge shares the medical facility with neighbouring Strong Township and Joly Township and, combined, the three municipalities took out a 30-year loan from Infrastructure Ontario to cover their share of the project. Smith said the NOFHC is a program that “makes a real difference in communities” and by providing the renovation grant, he added the Doug Ford government “has a true and fundamental understanding of Northern Ontario”.

The medical centre used to be an ambulance bay years ago until it was converted into a doctor's office with support staff during one expansion and then a dental office was added during a second expansion. But it became clear over the years that the medical centre needed to be modernized if there was to be any hope of attracting and retaining existing staff.

Over the years there were many false starts to renovate the centre, but during 2021 the members of all three previous town councils were able to agree on a pathway forward to start the massive renovation project. During that year, architectural and design work was carried out followed by the actual renovations which began in March of 2022 and were just recently completed.

Nancy Austin, Sundridge's Clerk Administrator, said the renovation was carried out in three phases. Phases 1 and 2 involved the interior work while the last phase saw exterior improvements to the parking lot and storm drainage.

One of the biggest changes patients of the medical centre will notice immediately is the relocation of the reception area. Austin said prior to the renovation, one section of the reception was used by a registered nurse to draw blood from patients when necessary. But by relocating the reception and reconfiguring the reception's former area, the medical centre gained an additional examination room.

One of the examination rooms is for the registered nurse and the other is for the nurse practitioner. The centre's two doctors each have an office and also their own examination room.

Austin said the renovation included a new heating and cooling system, new washrooms that are fully accessible and new windows.

The Mayors of Strong and Sundridge were at the funding announcement. Sundridge Mayor Justine Leveque said the three communities are 35 to 60 minutes to hospitals in Huntsville and North Bay. Leveque said the municipalities are fortunate to have a local medical centre that provides some medical services which help reduce the travel need to get medical attention at the out-of-town hospitals. Leveque added the renovated medical centre has become an appealing facility as the communities continue to work on attracting more healthcare professionals.

Strong Mayor Tim Bryson agreed with Leveque and also said the massive renovation means the building won't need work for a long time which he said will keep the tax burden down on future generations.

Joly Mayor Brian McCabe said residents of all three communities are “thrilled over the new facility”. McCabe said the renovated facility is now “more doctor-friendly” and there is additional room for more healthcare providers.

Like his mayoral colleagues, McCabe said the job of attracting more doctors and professionals to the area just became easier.

Smith made one other NOHFC announcement while at the medical centre.

In his other job, Bryson is also the owner and operator of Tim Bryson Forestry Services and he was awarded $121,320 to help buy more equipment and upgrade his existing facility to increase production capacity.

To qualify for the grant, Bryson had to ante up just more than $500,000 as his share of the expansion project.

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, The North Bay Nugget