Cottage Country Family Health Team Unsuccessful In Expression Of Interest For Expanding Care Services In Gravenhurst And Muskoka Lakes


From: Cottage Country Family Health Team

Cottage Country Family Health Team (CCFHT) recently received notification from the Ministry of Health that we were unsuccessful in our Expression of Interest (EOI) for expanding primary care services in Gravenhurst and Muskoka Lakes.

In May 2023, Ontario Health asked Family Health Teams (FHT) and primary care organizations across the province to submit proposals to address the health care needs within their community.  CCFHT focused our proposal on supporting the orphaned/unattached patient population (those without a primary care provider), expanding geriatric services as well as bringing specialist care to the community, which in turn supports the existing primary care providers.  Any increased health care funding to communities is a good thing and we are pleased with the funding being awarded to the Burks Falls, Sundridge and Huntsville Family Health Teams.  Funding for Orillia (Couchiching Family Health Team) our neighbouring community was announced yesterday.

Our FHT and the South Muskoka community have unfortunately been left out of this round of funding.  Our community faces significant primary care challenges. Due to the continued growth in our population and a large senior demographic, there are thousands of people without access to essential health care services. CCFHT chose to focus on Gravenhurst and Port Carling recognizing that these two communities within our geography had the greatest number of unattached patients.  Since the submission, we have had two doctors leave these communities, further increasing the number of patients without access to primary care and creating a critical situation. We are doing our best to try to address this situation through enhanced recruitment efforts.

Family Health Teams were encouraged to submit full requests for the needs in our communities and to help guide the Ministry in their planning.  Many teams were given a portion of their actual request.  We received endorsement for our proposal from the Town of Gravenhurst, the District of Muskoka, MPP Graydon Smith and the Muskoka and Area Ontario Health Team (MAOHT). We would like to thank the MAOHT for supporting all our partners with their applications as this work did lead to successes in Muskoka.

Ontario Health has indicated decisions were made based on projects that focused on equity and homelessness.  Our proposal had a larger vision for a community health hub in Gravenhurst that would provide services to all of South Muskoka and increasing health care services in Port Carling’s existing building.  This vision included Nurse Practitioners, Nursing and Physiotherapy positions to support the unattached patients, senior and women’s health programming, and an innovative visiting specialist clinic.  We are acutely aware of the needs of our community, including challenges in travelling to care in neighbouring communities and are committed to building services as close to home as possible.

CCFHT included in our submission a capital request to help move the further development of our Gravenhurst building forward.  The second level of this health facility has sat undeveloped for 15 years.  The development of this large upper level will bring additional health services to the Gravenhurst community, allow existing services to be expanded and provide opportunities to co-locate services of some of our health and social service partners. The plan included bringing back to Gravenhurst full service diagnostic imaging, a service that was included in the original building plans.

Opportunities for FHTs to apply for additional professional staff to expand our teams and the care we can provide have been rare.  It is unclear if and when we will be given another opportunity for funding to support primary care in our community.  Significant time and resources are required to make these submissions, thus within a small organization with limited staffing these submissions are a challenge to develop. Our Board remains committed to advocate for the services our community needs and deserves and we look forward to the continued support of our partners, physicians, municipalities and community leaders.

Dr. Tina Kappos

Board Chair



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