December 11, 2023

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The healthcare professionals who work at the Burk’s Falls Family Health Team are enjoying a much needed facelift to the health centre.

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The employees are now working in a renovated facility which included repurposing the former emergency reception into office space.

Christine Barr is the Administrative Assistant for the Village of Burk’s Falls who also coordinates the health centre’s administration.

Barr said one of the significant improvements includes how the Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN) can now operate at the facility.

“The OTN used to be in a small room and they regularly dealt with people with mobility challenges, like people with walkers,” Barr said. “So you’d have the nurse, the patient and a walker in a tiny area.  But the bigger space has really improved matters”.

The medical centre is a two storey building and some medical-related work was carried out on the second floor.

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Burk’s Falls Mayor Chris Hope says with the existing space now being put to better use, the second floor can be renovated in the future which includes green initiatives like retrofitting the windows and a new heating system.

Rod Ward, who is Mayor of Armour Township and also chairs the Almaguin Highlands Health Council, says the 10 member communities of the health council helped pay for the renovations with a combined contribution of $78,548.

The health centre houses 12 healthcare professionals and administrative staff.

Ward says there are six physicians, a nurse practitioner, two nurses plus administration personnel.

He adds apart from this there is also a mental health counsellor and an OTN nurse.

Burk’s Falls Mayor Chris Hope says the centre “goes into areas that are under-served” a function he says that is carried out by the mental health counsellor.

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“This is a big plus for us,” Hope said.

He adds that at some point in the future, new services will be needed at the health centre.

The centre also offers physiotherapy, has a diabetes clinic and an X-ray lab.

Hope says all these are important services but adds if there is one service patients find very valuable it’s having a blood lab.

“You can’t imagine the number of people who stop me in the Village and say whatever you do, ‘keep the blood lab open’”, Hope said. “Patients come from outside the area to use it.  To me this seems to be the service people find the most important.”

Hope says if there was no blood lab in Burk’s Falls, people who live in Almaguin would either have to drive to Huntsville or North Bay.

This interview was conducted inside the health centre on a Friday, the one day during weekdays the blood lab is closed.

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During the interview, five residents of Burk’s Falls showed up trying to get blood work.

“This shows how important that lab is,” Hope said.

He adds efforts have been ongoing to have the lab available five days a week but Hope says it’s a staffing issue.

Hope says the health centre is the cornerstone of the community. It was built as a hospital during 1952. Hope says following World War II there were many disabled Canadian war veterans and the Red Cross embarked on a national campaign to build hospitals that could help this group and the facility in Burk’s Falls was one of these hospitals. The hospital once had an emergency room but was shut down during the 1990s.

Muskoka Algonquin HealthCare oversees the hospital and Hope said a condition of keeping it open in the 90s was that it had to give up the emergency section.

Hope says it’s been a balancing act to keep providing health care services to the area.

In addition to having an examination room and therapy room, there are renovated doctors’ offices at the site plus the reception area.

Both Hope and Ward say the feedback they have received to date from the doctors and staff is that they love working in the renovated centre.

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.

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