A new medical facility in Niagara-on-the-Lake will mean that physicians like Dr. Karen Berti will be able to provide residents with more accessible health care.
Set to begin seeing patients on Monday, the 6,300-square-foot Village Medical Centre features new equipment, including a rising examination bed as well as brighter, more open patient rooms.
Berti, who helped champion the project, explained that the medical team kept the population they serve in mind when deciding on the perfect location, behind Shoppers Drug Mart in the Village development.
Showing off one of the new exam rooms, she said, “People can come in off of the street. There’s lots of space in the waiting room and we set (the new bed) up in here because it’s closest for people to get in from the entrance. There are lots of things we thought about in this way.”
“Statistically, we have a very large population over the age of 65, so we had to think about things that way,” she said.
At an open house Tuesday to unveil the new centre, the doctors and town officials credited developer John Hawley for his work in getting the project off the ground and ready for patients.
In the wake of the pandemic, many infection-control features were added, including glass partitions, touchless automatic door openers and a spacious waiting room.
The centre will be home to the practices of five doctors from the Niagara North Family Health Team and LifeLabs, all of whom have been working out of the basement of the old Niagara-on-the-Lake hospital for a few years.
Berti said she enjoyed her time there, so saying goodbye will be bittersweet but for the best. The physicians and staff will be moving the offices from the old site starting Thursday.
“We will just be doing what we do best in a new, clean and welcoming facility. That makes everyone feel better.”
The main building will offer a variety of services, including mental health aid and chronic diseases management, all while boasting an improved appearance, high-tech air purifying and ventilation system, and numerous other hygienic upgrades.
Dr. Pratik Kalani felt similarly about the increased accessibility of the new facility and stressed that the level of care in NOTL will not change.
“I think we’re a lot closer to a lot of our patients. Some have told me that they’ll even be able to walk over. Accessibility will be a lot better. I think public transit will come a little bit closer too,” he said.
“We’re trying to keep (our service) identical to what it is at the old site. The standard of care is still high,” said Kalani.
Aside from increased accessibility, the new medical centre seeks to generally improve people’s experience while receiving health care, right down to the aesthetic points.
Mary Keith, executive director of the family health team, said the journey to finding a new location was a long one and the doctors wanted to ensure the site was perfect.
“We tried to choose warm and welcoming colours. We know that people will hopefully feel comfortable coming in,” she said.
“Our goal was professional but welcoming.”
Coun. Wendy Cheropita was particularly impressed with the facility.
“I think it’s a testament to the hard work of (the team) to have a vision to have an upgraded experience and environment for their patients,” she said.
“When I walked in here the first thing I thought was, ‘Look at the big windows and the soft colours.’ They were very carefully chosen.”
“It’s obviously a patient-centred experience here.”
Coun. Sandra O’Connor, who has been advocating for improvements to NOTL health care, said while more services are still necessary, the new facility is a big step in the right direction.
“I think it’s a wonderful contribution to our infrastructure,” said O’Connor. “I’d love to see more of this.”
Attached to the main building is a new, 800-square-foot LifeLabs facility, also featuring increased accessibility and new equipment.
“This is definitely a step up from where we were,” said client services supervisor Charlene Serafini.
“Over at the old location we were using bathroom sinks to pour out urine. Everything here is more state-of-the-art and up to standard.”
With updates and increased accessibility, Keith is excited for what lies ahead.
“It’s been a long long road, the history predates me. It’s been a long time for NOTL to get a new medical centre, so I think this represents the end of that journey and an exciting lovely new space for all of the residents to come and get health care.”