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New health funding brings primary-care teams closer to home

Funding includes establishing a clinic to provide primary care and social services to those experiencing homelessness in northern York Region
Health Minister Sylvia Jones (right) speaks with Germaine Elliott, executive director of the Mamaway Wiidokdaadwin Primary Care Team, and one of her colleagues during a funding announcement Friday in Barrie.

Ontario’s health minister made a quick stop in Barrie on Friday morning to announce more than $9.8 million in funding to support primary-care teams, including a clinic for homeless individuals in northern York Region.

“Today is an expansion of what local health-care workers have been doing,” Sylvia Jones said during a news conference at the Georgian Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinic in the city’s north end.

“Last year, our government introduced Your Health, a plan to make bold, innovative and creative changes to strengthen all aspects of the health-care system, making it easier and more convenient for Ontarians to connect to care closer to home," added Jones, who also serves as deputy premier. 

Since 2018, more than 80,000 nurses have been added to the workforce, said Jones, adding 2023 was another "record" year, with more than 17,000 nurses registering to work in Ontario and another 30,000 nursing students studying at colleges across the province, including Georgian College in Barrie.

“Our government knows how important it is to make investments and expand community services, which is why today our government is announcing an investment of $9.8 million to connect over 34,000 people in Simcoe, York and Bruce regions to primary care,” she said.

“This is part of our government’s $110-million investment to connect over 300,000 people to primary-care teams that will add over 400 new primary-care providers as part of 78 new, expanded, interprofessional primary-care teams," Jones said. 

These teams include family doctors, nurse practitioners, registered and practical nurses and other highly skilled health-care clinicians, the minister added.

An additional $20 million will provide a boost to all existing interprofessional primary-care teams to help them meet increased operational costs for their facilities and supplies so that they continue to provide quality care to their patients, Jones said.

Ontario is the first Canadian jurisdiction to fund this “innovative model of care” consisting of nurse practitioners-led clinics, Jones added. 

Interprofessional primary-care teams connect people to a range of health professionals who work together under one roof, including doctors, nurse practitioners, registered and practical nurses, physiotherapists, social workers and dietitians. 

"This important investment will help connect more residents in northern York Simcoe to a primary care provider. By expanding multidisciplinary teams who work together to assess, plan and coordinate people’s care, our government is helping ensure better health outcomes for our community members," said Dawn Gallagher Murphy, MPP for Newmarket-Aurora, in a news release.

Germaine Elliott, executive director of the Mamaway Wiidokdaadwin Primary Care Team, said this funding will allow for expansion of the Indigenous interprofessional primary-care team.

Mamaway Wiidokdaadwin has been in operation since June 2019 and has clinics in Barrie and one in Orillia, she said.

Its team incorporates traditional healing practices through community health initiatives, life promotion and the Red Road to Recovery program. 

“It’s really taking the concept of interprofessional teams and moving it out into the community," Elliott said. "We recognize that the majority of the work in helping people to become healthy is to motivate them to do that. That is part of our philosophy, but it also builds on Indigenous concepts of healing and wellness, which is thousands of years old.”

“I am so thrilled about it because that type of investment, to me, signals the ministry’s acknowledgement and recognition that health is holistic in approach," Elliott added. "I think in the past, health care has been siloed, so providing the resources to create these models of care … is absolutely amazing.”

Locally, the new funding will be used to:

  • Establish a clinic to provide primary care and social services to those experiencing homelessness in northern York Region
  • Create an Indigenous primary care team to serve the community in Barrie, including a mobile clinic
  • Connect those without a primary-care provider to a nurse practitioner-led clinic in Innisfil
  • Expand access to primary-care and mental health services for people in Huntsville
  • Establish two satellite clinics serving vulnerable populations in the Couchiching, Orillia and the North Simcoe area
  • Establish a clinic in Collingwood to connect patients to primary care, including marginalized patients and those needing mental health and addictions supports
  • Establish a new Indigenous primary-care team to serve patients in the Saugeen First Nation
  • Create a new nurse practitioner-led clinic in Owen Sound
  • Connect patients to primary care and allied health services via a mobile clinic on the Bruce Peninsula.

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About the Author: Nikki Cole

Nikki Cole has been a community issues reporter for BarrieToday since February, 2021
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