After years of delays and false starts, the Sundridge and District Medical Centre is going to be renovated. The renovation will cost $1,489,133. The dollar amount will be split three ways with Strong Township picking up the lion's share at 50 per cent, followed by Sundridge covering 40 per cent and Joly Township accounting for the remaining 10 per cent. Sundridge council passed its motion Wednesday to approve the renovation a day after Strong township approved the project at its regular meeting Tuesday evening. Sundridge Coun. Steve Hicks said as much as he wants to see Joly also support the project at its next council meeting, it's not necessary at this point because the work is going ahead. Hicks sits on the Sundridge and District Medical Centre Committee and told his colleagues Strong's support for the renovations “is really heartening and great to hear. “This renovation has been a long time coming.” Hicks says the medical centre work could never get off the ground over several terms of the three councils. At one time the medical centre committee was tasked with looking for a new piece of land for an entirely new medical centre. “Everyone had the best intentions but for various reasons those plans never came to fruition,” Hicks said. That meant staff stayed in the same building and major renovations were not carried out year after year. Hicks said this is also the main reason why, at nearly $1.5 million, the cost of renovations is so high today. By finally agreeing to renovate the building, the councils are showing they care for the lone physician and her staff at the centre as well as the nurse practitioner and the employees in that department, he said. “It shows we're a community that is committed to them.” “We respect and support them in the work they do to take care of our community.” Hicks also said having a current and up-to-date medical centre will help the area attract a second doctor, an effort that has been going on for years. The current appearance of the medical centre is not conducive when “trying to attract a physician to our area.” Hicks compared the facility's appearance to Frankenstein's monster, where new parts were added on over the years and parts of the building looked very different from other parts. Although the local doctor or nurse practitioner never said it to him, Hicks believed if the three councils continued to ignore renovating the medical centre, the communities ran the risk of losing the centre employees and then the area would have a very big problem. “I think the only thing that's worse than needing two physicians and only having one, is needing two physicians and having none,” Hicks said. Coun. Barbara Belrose, who also sits on the medical centre committee, ran off a list of some of the upgrades the facility needs, including sound-proofing the various rooms. Belrose said it was impossible for a doctor to have a private conversation in a room and not have it overheard because of the lack of soundproof walls. The washrooms are not wheelchair accessible, the building needs new windows and the “air circulation was despicable,” she said, adding the work should have been carried out years ago. Belrose was glad the renovations are finally being carried out and said “when it's finished we'll have a new building we can be proud of and hopefully bring new doctors to town.” Mayor Lyle Hall told his council how the employees at the medical centre gave him positive feedback involving the committee, saying “they appreciate the work you are doing.” He also commended the committee for hiring Bertrand Wheeler Architecture of North Bay to carry out the design work. Hall says the firm has a history of coming in under budget and under deadline with the projects it takes on. Work on the renovations is expected to begin in the near future. 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