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North Perth, North Huron Family Health Teams plan to amalgamate

LISTOWEL-WINGHAM – The boards of North Perth and North Huron Family Health Teams have unanimously agreed to proceed with an amalgamation to join the two teams. The decision was preceded with a full review by legal counsels to ensure there were no impediments to integrating the two teams.

“It is a natural fit for the two teams to join,” said Karri-Ann Cameron, chair of the North Huron Family Health Team. “These teams have been working very closely together for over 10 years to ensure our communities receive the best possible care.”

“For almost two years, the teams have had a shared leadership model which has demonstrated the value of streamlining our operations while focusing on strengthening our clinical capacity to deliver strong programs and services to benefit our shared communities,” said Rob Martin, acting chair of the North Perth Family Health Team.

It is hoped the transition will be smooth and patients won’t notice much change in service. One thing which will change will be the name of the amalgamated clinics.

“We want to recognize the two teams coming together and becoming one organization so we won’t be able to maintain the two separate names,” said Mary Atkinson, executive director for the two family health teams. “It’s just part and parcel of an amalgamation and we also want to recognize part of our catchment area also includes South Bruce. So our Lucknow and Teeswater offices also draw patients from South Bruce. I don’t know what the name is going to be.”

The next step for the board is to form a subcommittee of both boards to work through the final details.

“We’ve done a lot of background work over the past 10 years to align our two organizations so this was just a natural evolution,” said Atkinson.

She wanted to reinforce that it will be business as usual and sharing clinical expertise should increase access to services for the communities services by the clinics.

“As you can imagine we have patients who live in Listowel and see a doctor in Wingham and vice-versa,” said Atkinson. “As we know transportation can be a huge barrier to accessing care so this way, just even in that small example, patients will be able to see a clinician in the location where they live which will be a huge bonus. We have a fairly elderly population, we also have a significant Anabaptist population so being able to give them some choice where they can see a clinician such as a dietician or a mental health counsellor is a real service to the community.”

Since the board just passed the motion to amalgamate, they are now dealing with the small details such as creating a new budget and a new program and services plan for the Ministry of Health to approve.

“So there will be machinations at the government level to see this through but we feel very supported by the Ministry of Health,” she said.

To support the integration process engagement sessions will be conducted with patients, staff and the community.

“We’re hoping we will be able to start the new organization April 1, 2021. Our goal is to have our documents to the ministry by the end of December,” said Atkinson.

Colin Burrowes is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with the Listowel Banner. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.