Committee recommends town help dentist relocate to Gore Bay

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GORE BAY—If everything works out, the town of Gore Bay could have a new dentist in town by this fall or soon after. At a general government committee meeting held last week, council agreed to pay half the costs of purchasing refurbished equipment at the facility, and to help in finding accommodations for the dentist and her family.

This comes after the town’s general government committee heard a presentation from an interested dentist. Dr. Mary Cross told the committee, “I grew up in Beamsville and Grimsby Ontario in the Niagara region, and I graduated from dental school in 2018 from James Cook University, an Australian University whose health programs are focused on rural and remote health care.”

Dr. Cross explained, “I worked in rural Kamsack, and Yorkton Saskatchewan,” Dr. Cross told the committee. She explained her husband, Dr. Christinus van Buuren is also a dentist and the couple had their first baby, Laura, in September 2021. The couple love boating, hiking, golfing, soccer, and skiing.

“My husband worked in Yorktown, (with a population of about 20,000) and later I was asked to join the practice in Yorktown as well,” said Dr. Cross. “I visited Gore Bay two weeks ago, and was taken on a tour of the clinic and I indicated that some of the equipment needs to be upgraded or replaced.

With help from a former dentist in Gore Bay, Dr. Bill Studzienny, she had spoken to a pair of companies regarding the needed equipment, and brand new equipment would cost just under $300,000, while buying good, but used, equipment would be about $72,000.

“My recommendation would be to go for the used, but still good, equipment,” said Dr. Cross. “I think the clinic could be ready by this September.”

“I thank you for taking an interest in our clinic and town,” said Gore Bay Mayor Dan Osborne. “So, you were here a couple of weeks ago on a holiday, and fell in love with Gore Bay?”

Dr. Cross, who had visited Manitoulin previously, said until two weeks ago she had never visited Gore Bay and told the committee, “I love the Island and Gore Bay. And I love the atmosphere. The last town I worked in had a population of 2,000 residents. There were two stop lights in the town I lived in when I was growing up. I like Gore Bay a lot and the big windows in the clinic.”

When asked what her husband will do if the couple moves to the Island Dr. Cross explained, “there are opportunities for dentists on the Island, (but as she had a baby last September) he will probably work in the clinic as well.”

“What would you expect to see from us as the town, to set up here?” asked Mayor Osborne.

“I would like to rent the space in the clinic,” stated Dr. Cross. “And hope the town would help to get the clinic up to operational level. So, I guess, money to help get set up and help from the town to, for instance, paint the clinic, freshen it up, and make it look nice.” She also explained that she is looking to rent accommodation for a year and get established in the community, (noting her mother also lives with her family), so ideally, we would be looking for a three-bedroom house or apartment.

Ron Lane chaired the committee meeting and said, “I’m sure you would want an answer from the town sooner than later. Personally, I’m excited to have a dentist and a new family move into Gore Bay. It is great that you reached out to us.”

As for the proposal by Dr. Cross, “my first reaction is that this is great,” stated Mayor Osborne. 

Dr. Cross, “is very keen and wants to start running the dental clinic in just over a month. What if we pay half of the equipment costs and she pays half, and the town provides rental space in the clinic free for a year?” asked Mr. Lane. He also pointed out the town could help in finding the family accommodations and as a realtor, he knows of one place already that may be available for the family to live in.

It was suggested the town could also offer, as part of the package, memberships to the town fitness centre, curling club, and golf course.

“It would be crazy if we don’t put together a package for (Dr. Cross) to consider,” said Mr. Lane. “Going halfway on the equipment cost purchases would be a good starting point.”

Councillor Clark said that the town should contact Dr. Cross as soon as possible to indicate the town is very interested in leasing out space in the clinic for the dentist and will put together a package including help with finding accommodations. 

“This is an opportunity we can’t pass up,” stated Mayor Osborne.