Province provides funding for primary health care expansion in Minto

CLIFFORD – The Minto-Mapleton Family Health Team (MMFHT) will be able to provide primary health care to hundreds of additional residents after receiving more than a half-million dollars in provincial funding to add two nurse practitioners, a practical nurse and a receptionist to the team’s roster.

Perth-Wellington MPP Matthew Rae announced the funding on Feb. 7 at the health team’s Clifford Medical Centre, where one of the new nurse practitioners will work.

“This is a great day in the Town of Minto,” said Rae.

“I am excited to share that our government is providing over $568,000 to the Minto-Mapleton Family Health Team to expand primary care in their catchment area, specifically in Clifford.”

Rae said the funding will allow an additional 1,400 to 1,600 residents within Minto and Mapleton to receive primary care in the community they live.

“This funding will also indirectly help relieve the pressure on our rural emergency rooms,” Rae added.

“Providing more people with primary care in the community will mean less people have to visit one of our rural ERs for non-emergency health care needs and this will relieve the pressure our rural nurses and doctors are currently operating under.”

Rae said the funding is part of “the first major expansion in Ontario of inter-professional primary care teams since their inception in 2005.”

A press release from Rae’s office states that province-wide, the government is spending $90 million to add over 400 new primary care providers within 78 new and expanded inter-professional primary care teams.

An additional $20 million will provide a boost to all existing inter-professional primary care teams, helping meet increased operational costs for their facilities and supplies, the release states.

“It’s an especially proud moment for me coming from Minto obviously. I know our health care workers have gone above and beyond during the pandemic and continue to do so during these challenging times,” said Rae.

“I want to thank the entire Mapleton-Minto and Family Health Team for everything that you do for our communities. And I want to congratulate you on securing this funding.”

MMFHT executive director Shirley Borges said, “It’s a very exciting day for rural Wellington and our Minto-Mapleton Family Health Team and especially for the many individuals in our north Wellington area who will need access to a care provider, specifically a nurse practitioner, or physician, or access to our fantastic programs and services that family health teams provide.”

Borges pointed out the local health team currently has four nurse practitioners working at the main primary health care provider to about 2,000 patients.

She added the addition of two full-time nurse practitioners will improve access to services such as “diabetes care, cardiac and respiratory care, mental health and addiction supports, and a wide range of wellness and chronic disease management programs.”

Borges said the first order of business will be to hire a second nurse practitioner for the Clifford site, noting current staff “are really excited to welcome a new nurse practitioner.

“The site is move-in ready once the nurse practitioner’s hired,” she said, adding the other nurse practitioner and receptionist would be stationed elsewhere in the health team’s area, mostly likely at facilities in Palmerston or Harriston.

The Minto-Mapleton Health Care Recruiting Committee, which Borges chairs, has been lobbying for additional funding to hire nurse practitioners for about a year now, with support from Minto council and Rae.

Borges acknowledged ongoing support from MMFHT medical lead Dr. Phil Deacon and board chair Dr. Tanya Norman, as well as other physicians and community board members.

“We’ve had many community partners and residents provide input to our proposal,” she noted.

She also thanked Rae, stating the MPP “took the time to listen and learn about our needs and our issues and to strongly … advocate.”

Minto councillor Ron Elliott said the timing of the funding is good because the town “as a whole, and especially in Clifford, is starting to grow.”

Elliott thanked the MMFHT for their efforts.

“We appreciate what you do and we appreciate the medical people that we have in place right now,” he stated.

Kay Ayres, a Mount Forest senior citizen who accesses health care at the Clifford clinic, thanked Borges, Rae and others involved in securing the new services.

“This will be well utilized. So this is one senior saying thank you for all the seniors and all the other families that will be able to make use of this new service,” said Ayres, who joined MMFHT officials at a meeting to discuss the proposal with Rae last May.

Asked why the MMFHT proposal was successful in securing funding ahead of other applications, Rae noted the team had a detailed plan ready to implement immediately.

“They’re ready to go. They could hire a nurse practitioner in Clifford tomorrow,” he explained.

Rae also noted “the good thing about this funding is that it’s ongoing,” meaning the MMFHT will receiving funding for the positions annually going forward.