Chelsea could soon see a significant injection of family doctors to the region, with as many as seven local practitioners ready to staff a new doctor’s office in the centre village.
All they need is a building.
Des Collines Health Foundation president Louise Killens told the Low Down Jan. 31 that there are seven doctors who already live in Chelsea – general practitioners who want to practise locally but are just waiting for a clinic to be built.
“It’s been four years in the making,” said Killens, explaining that the project is being headed by orthopedic surgeon Dr. Henri-Servante Gaspard. She said the original plan was to build the new medical clinic in the Quartier Meredith sector, near Kunstadt Sports, but because the municipality is planning to acquire some of the Meredith lands for the French school board to build its new school, those plans were axed.
“We’ve had all sorts of problems because of the Ministry of Education and the school and parking, so now we’re actually looking at different venues,” said Killens. “But we have regular meetings with Dr. Gaspard and the municipality, and everybody is very committed to the project.”
Although the project will still take some time – perhaps a year or more to be fully realized – Killens says a new clinic in Chelsea could really have an impact on local families throughout the Hills.
“We have a huge population base here and a lot of them don’t have doctors or they are on a waitlist,” she said.
According to Stats Canada, over 21 per cent of Quebecers aged 12 and older did not have regular access to primary care in 2021 – the highest percentage in Canada, excluding the territories. Health Minister Christian Dubé announced in late 2021 that there were 1.5 million Quebecers waiting for a family doctor.
In the Outaouais, the numbers are much better, according to CISSS spokesperson Patricia Rhéaume. She said that as of Jan. 13, over 75 per cent of residents in the MRC des Collines are registered with a family doctor.
Retaining doctors has also been a problem for Quebec over the past several years, with 385 doctors leaving the public health system since 2015, when the province introduced Bill 20, which mandated GPs to carry a minimum number of patients. Ninety-two of those doctors left in 2022 alone.
Killens, who runs PhysioSport in Chelsea, said the idea is to build a “one-stop shop” with a medical clinic, her physio practice, which will move into the space, and other amenities for residents.
“When you go to the Wakefield clinic, you have the doctor, you have the pharmacist and the physiotherapist – there is something to be said about that,” she said. “That’s why they have zoning for medical clinics in Ottawa, – it’s the same sort of principle.”
She said the idea is to build a health network in Chelsea rather than just a clinic.
“[We’re] going to have an x-ray machine here, too,” said an excited Killens. While she was hush-hush about other details, including potential locations and timelines, she said the project is moving forward as planned.