East Wellington Family Health team preparing for May 1

The East Well­ington Family Health Team (EWFHT) is scheduled to be­gin operations on May 1, but there’s an enormous amount of work to be completed before that date.
That was the message EWFHT President Erik Stern gave to Erin council last week during a request for financial help.
Stern told council the Min­istry of Health and Long Term Care has approved the family health team’s first year budget, but there are certain costs the province refuses to cover, in­cluding health promotion, doctor recruitment, some operating expenses, and the steps necessary to become a registered charity.
As a result, the EWFHT is requesting the town continue its $50,000 annual contribution, as well as an additional $9,000 donation this year to help cover the “operating gap.”
Guelph-Eramosa Township has already approved an additional $6,000 donation for 2008.
Councillor Ken Chapman asked if the $9,000 will be­come an annual request. Stern replied he hopes the money will be raised through other donations, but he could not promise the EWFHT would not need money for something else in 2009.
Mayor Rod Finnie said he could not make any promises, but council will consider the donation in coming budget discussions. The mayor stressed the importance of having local doctors, and added that the family health team is vital to the community.
The team’s plan
Stern informed council that the health team’s first year budget will be over $2-million, and in addition to four current doctors, will include the following staff members:
– registered nurse and program lead;
– nurse practitioner;
– mental health worker;
– half-time dietician;
– administrative assistant;
– part-time receptionist; and
– business leader.
The team has also received concept approval from the ministry for an electronic medical records system, improvements to temporary facilities to house new staff, and design studies for permanent facilities in Erin and Rockwood.
The EWFHT, which is one of just 24 community-led family health teams in the province, hopes to offer satellite operations for more rural locations, and eventually home care for those unable to attend a satellite location or  the fixed clinics in Rockwood or Erin.
Doctor recruitment
Currently 3,300 individuals are served at the Erin clinic and 1,975 are served in the Rock­wood clinic, Stern told council. He also noted enrollment is growing and the entire east Wellington area is under-serviced, with Erin and Rockwood each requiring at least one additional doctor.
A health survey conducted in the area showed that about 65% of respondents would switch to a local doctor if possible.
The survey also indicated that certain groups in the community – including seniors and young people – are particularly under-serviced.