New family health team facility opens at Mindemoya hospital

From left, Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing NDP candidate Carol Hughes, Manitoulin Health Centre (MHC) board member Angela Becks, MHC CEO Derek Graham, MHC CAO Lynn Foster, Dr. Nick Jeeves, Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Mike Mantha, MHC board member Chris Bousquet, Manitoulin Central Family Health Team (MCFHT) Executive Director Lori Oswald and Nickelbelt MPP France Gelinas cut the ribbon on the new FHT facility.

Manitoulin Central Family Health Team realizes its dream

MINDEMOYA — Community members, special guests and staff gathered for the official grand opening of the new Manitoulin Central Family Health Team (FHT) building last Thursday morning.

“Thank you for joining us for this special occasion,” said Lynn Foster, Manitoulin Health Centre (MHC) vice president of corporate support services and chief financial officer. “One year ago today we gathered for the ground breaking ceremony.”

Ms. Foster noted that over the course of the last year, construction on the new facility has had 21 stop workdays because of weather and 60 truck loads of extra gravel because of the wet ground, but that the project finished on time and within the budget.

The first guest speaker was Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Mike Mantha who commented on what a huge benefit the new facility will be for the Island and the region.

“This is an incredible facility,” said Mr. Mantha. “Hats off to you.”

Mr. Mantha also recognized Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing NDP candidate Carol Hughes and Nickelbelt MPP France Gelinas who joined him for the opening, noting, “Federal or provincial, it doesn’t matter. When we are needed to support projects like these, we step up to help.”

A large group of dignitaries and community members gathers for the opening ceremonies of the long-awaited Manitoulin Central Family Health Team.
A large group of dignitaries and community members gathers for the opening ceremonies of the long-awaited Manitoulin Central Family Health Team.

Ms. Hughes began by recognizing that the new hospital was on traditional Anishinabek territory.

“I am pleased to see this massive expansion,” said Ms. Hughes. “I have already heard rave reviews of the facility. To all who worked hard to see this to fruition, thank you for your vision, dedication and commitment.”

Ms. Gelinas explained how she learned about the plans for the new FHT from Ms. Foster whom she met on a flight.

“I learned a great deal not only about this project, but healthcare on Manitoulin,” said Ms. Gelinas, who explained that she is the health critic for the NDP. “I keep an eye on 52 hospitals and most of them are having a hard time. They are having to lose services, yet here on Manitoulin you are building infrastructure, new programs—you are thriving. You should give yourselves a big pat on the back for all your hard work and how you have worked together to make this happen and overcame all the obstacles you have.  The health of everyone in Central Manitoulin will be better because of what you have done. It was an honour to accept the invitation to be here today. Congratulations.”

Representing the Manitoulin Health Centre board at the celebration was board member Chris Bousquet who thanked everyone who was part of helping the project come to fruition.

“On behalf of the chair and board of directors I would like to welcome you here today,” said Mr. Bousquet. “Hard to believe that we broke ground a year ago and now we are here celebrating this 38,000 square foot building. This is a huge accomplishment for Central Manitoulin and for all of Manitoulin.”

Manitoulin Health Centre CEO Derek Graham commented on how the project was made possible due to a great deal of cooperation.

“Cooperation is a hallmark of the health care system here on Manitoulin and why we have been so successful in the tough (healthcare) climate,” said Mr. Graham. “We stayed focused on goals, knitting together the right partners to accent our efforts.”

Mr. Graham also thanked the number of partners who made the new facility possible including Dr. Nick Jeeves, FHT Executive Director Lori Oswald, Ms. Foster, and the support of Mr. Mantha and Ms. Gelinas.

“I believe strongly in the power of collaboration and we will carry this focus forward,” said Mr. Graham.

He also noted that there were a lot of requests during the development of the building, but that the project was achieved not only through collaboration, but compromise and hard work.

“In the words of Mick Jagger, ‘You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you get what you need,” concluded Mr. Graham.

Dr. Jeeves, the chair of the FHT board, reviewed the history of the building and how the addition of the new facility complements the thriving health centre that Central Manitoulin has today.

MHC board member Angela Becks spoke as a Central Manitoulin community member about what the new FHT facility will mean to the community.

“My family is cared for by this team,” said Ms. Becks. “The team helps us take responsibility for our wellness. Growing up there was only one doctor who cared for our community, on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Ms. Becks commented on how lucky Central Manitoulin is to have this new facility and the wonderful team behind it.

Then-M’Chigeeng chief Joe Hare presents Dr. Jeeves with a  painting commissioned by Blair Debassige in honour of the Family  Health Team’s grand opening. photos by Robin Burridge
Then-M’Chigeeng chief Joe Hare presents Dr. Jeeves with a painting commissioned by Blair Debassige in honour of the Family Health Team’s grand opening. photos by Robin Burridge

M’Chigeeng Chief Joe Hare (who as of press time has retired and whose chair has been taken over by new Chief Linda Debassige) presented Dr. Jeeves, on behalf of the FHT, with a painting by Blair Debassige, congratulating the team on the new building.

“We are so honoured by the gift,” said Ms. Oswald. “I am humbled by the words of appreciation from all the individuals here and the support to provide sustainable health care to Manitoulin. I have worked with an incredible group of skilled people who helped us with this vision.”

Ms. Oswald thanked both her team and the patients for their support and patience throughout the many project phases.

“I couldn’t have don’t this without the fantastic support of many of the people here today,” said Ms. Oswald through tears. “Thank you mom for believing in me and thank you for my family for putting up with a lot of hours of overtime the last year.”

The celebration concluded with tours of the new facility and a special made on Manitoulin lunch featuring Burt Farm meat, Purvis Fisheries smoked fish, cake from Brenda’s Cakes and salads from FHT staff. Everyone was also given sweetgrass keepsakes from Lillian’s Crafts.