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September 28, 2023

Evidence shows Community Health Centres important role in health care system

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As health care leaders across Ontario and Canada continue to grapple with health system challenges, evidence continues to accumulate that one of the most important components to transforming our health system for sustainability is access to comprehensive primary health care and health promotion services. The information was divulged in a recent media release by the South East Grey Community Health Centre, located in Markdale.

Community Health Centres, first introduced in Ontario in the 1960s, provide access to comprehensive primary health care for people who experience barriers all across the province in urban, suburban, rural and northern communities. CHCs do this through direct provision of services such as primary care via salaried physicians and nurse practitioners.

Part of the comprehensive care includes a full team of providers that can include: dietitians, social workers, chiropodists, physiotherapists, mental health professionals, peer support workers, system navigators and more. Health promotion, community development and other social and community support services are delivered in many Ontario communities through this integrated model of health and wellbeing. This model allows for people to be cared for by one team, instead of having to navigate sometimes complex referral and continuity of care planning on their own. CHCs also open their doors to the community and provide services and programs to people who do not receive their medical care directly from CHCs.

For a long time, CHCs have flown 'below the radar' in the Ontario health system, with persistent questions about costs, benefits and sustainability. Now, evidence is in — and it consistently shows that CHCs expand access to programs and services overall, better serve marginalized people by improving outcomes and reducing emergency department use, and overall save health system spending. They also help support other allied health care and social services providers to better serve people along the continuum of care.

“We aim to deliver a seamless, effective and equitable experience of the health system for everyone we serve,” said Alex Hector, Executive Director. “To address the health and wellbeing needs of the most marginalized people in our community, we have to be a foundation for primary health care, social services, mental health and community development in Grey Highlands, Southgate, Chatsworth, part of Melancthon and part of West Grey — but also, crucially, in those people’s individual lives. We’re able to do that by listening closely to the community. When it comes to our health care system right now, people need a strong anchor they can count on – in their own lives, and when we face a crisis together.”

“So that’s the role we play. And that’s why we’re seeking the support of our community and our government leaders for adequate funding and the resources to meet people’s needs here in the future.”

South East Grey Community Health Centre is located in Markdale, Dundalk and Chatsworth. In a typical year, it’s interprofessional team of Nurse Practitioners, Physicians, Registered Practical Nurses, Registered Dietitians, Social Workers, Physiotherapists, Chiropodist, and Health Promoters supported by a small and mighty administration team complete 52,000 patient visits and provide more than 1,500 social, food, mental health, fitness and health education program sessions attended by in excess of 15,000 participants.


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