Niagara North Family Health Team has said if Niagara-on-the-Lake town council doesn’t approve the land use amendments for a proposed new medical centre, doctors may be “forced to seek other options outside the community.”
The notice came in an April letter to NNFHT patients, which urges them to contact council members showing support for the new centre.
The desired location is at 493-507 Line 2 Rd. in Virgil, next to Crossroads Public School and if given the green light, would see the two current NNFHT locations at the NOTL Hospital and Niagara Stone Rd. consolidated into the new centre.
It would be called the Crossroads Health Centre.
The letter said “if you want to ensure that your medical practitioners remain in NOTL, our councillors need to hear from you.”
Many residents are viewing the letter as a threat to residents, council and NNFHT patients.
Town Coun. Martin Mazza said he thinks it is a clear attempt at scaring residents into supporting the development.
Coun. Betty Disero said although she doesn’t think the location is the best place for a new medical centre, she doesn’t view the letter is a threat.
“I see it as an explanation for what might happen,” she said.
“Emails and letters are so impersonal. When I spoke to Dr. (Karen) Berti, I could see the frustration in what she was telling me … the doctors are frustrated and concerned about stability.”
She said to her the decision isn’t about taking sides, but rather what is the best decision for the town.
Some have said — though the Lake Report could not confirm by press time — that some of the developers are also doctors involved in current NNFHT practices.
Dissero said she doesn’t know for sure if that is true, but that regardless, she doesn’t think it should play a big part in the town’s decision.
When asked if she thought there was a conflict of interest, she said no, and that town planners would decide whether the location is suitable for a medical centre or not.
“Is it the best location? Our planners will tell us that,” said Disero.
Mazza said it’s about more than just picking and choosing locations when there are zoning bylaws in place.
He said he’s received phone calls from doctors involved who asked him to support the zoning bylaw ammendment.
“It put me in an awkward situation,” said Mazza.
“And now they’re asking their patients to call us and to email us.”
The letter states that because of the closure of the Niagara-on-the-Lake hospital there is a “crucial need and mounting time constraints” for a new site.
Anthony Annunziata, owner of the NOTL Medical Centre at 1882 Niagara Stone Rd., said the doctors that currently practice in his building are welcome to stay for “as long as they want.”
“This is a land use application. Not a vote to keep the doctors in NOTL,” Annunziata said.
Many residents of NOTL aren’t happy about the proposal either.
Dozens of people gathered at a public open house in March to voice their concerns about the proposed centre’s proximity to a public school, potential traffic problems and the accessibility of the location.
Mazza also said he thinks the town needs to keep residential areas zoned residential to attract more young families to Niagara.
Here is the letter:
“A message from Niagara-on-the-Lake Doctors and the Niagara North Family Health Team.”
‘To our valued patients:
We are reaching out to inform you that our medical practices are expected to be relocated by late 2019, and to assure you that we are currently pursuing a relocation option. This option is one that allows us to remain in Niagara-on-the-Lake, and to maintain and improve healthcare services for our patients.
There is a crucial need and mounting time constraints for a new site due to the closure of the Niagara-on-the-Lake hospital. As the health care providers in this community, we are planning to consolidate our practices and services in a single, new location — the Crossroads Health Centre. After a four-year process and our own review of available locations (new, existing or refurbished), we have come together to ensure that the most desirable option for the provision of high quality healthcare — a newly built, consolidated centre – becomes a reality in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
The site developer is in the process of seeking a zoning change from the Town, which is required in order to proceed. Council will vote on the zoning amendment request following a public meeting on May 7th. We want to be clear with patients that if the project cannot proceed, we may be forced to seek other options outside of the community. If you want to ensure that your medical practitioners remain in Niagara-on-the-Lake, our councillors need to hear from you. Please consider sharing your perspective as a patient by emailing or phoning councillors via the contact information found on the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake website athttp://www.notl.org/content/lord-mayor-and-council.
We have attached an information package to share the most up-to-date information on the planned Centre. T allows for the construction of a purpose-built, modern facility that can house the 11 medical practices, the Family Health Team Employees, and other services currently located at two sites. It has capacity for additional and expanded services (lab, imaging, pharmacy, specialist care) and additional practitioners. It is centrally located, accessible by public transit, closer to emergency medical services and the largest retirement/long-term care centre in the Town, and will offer free on-site parking.
The new centre is certain to have a very positive impact on healthcare in our Town, and we will continue to work diligently to make it available to our community.
Drs. Adams, Ahmed, Bastedo, Berti, Durocher, Frendo, O’Leary, Ricciardi, Smith and Viviers and Mary Keith, Executive Director, Family Health Team.’”
DISCLAIMER: This story has been altered to clarify that “many”, not all, residents of NOTL are unhappy about the proposed development. An updated story can be found here.