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Clare Health Centre expansion could allow for 4,000 more patients

The 8,000-square-foot expansion to the Clare Health Centre will create room for more doctors, physiotherapy services and space for the medical learners who train at the site. (Nova Scotia Health - image credit)
The 8,000-square-foot expansion to the Clare Health Centre will create room for more doctors, physiotherapy services and space for the medical learners who train at the site. (Nova Scotia Health - image credit)

Twenty years ago, Dr. Michelle Dow was part of a group that included health-care workers and municipal politicians who had a vision for sustainable health care in the Municipality of the District of Clare, N.S.

On Monday, Dow said that even she could not have predicted how successful that group would be in making that vision a reality.

"Not even in my wildest dreams," said Dow, medical director of the Clare Health Centre, in an interview.

Since opening in 2008, the centre in Meteghan Centre on Nova Scotia's French shore has provided a variety of health-care services and clinics in both official languages for people in the community. It's brought and kept care close to home for local residents.

That early success has now led to an 8,000-square-foot expansion that will create room for more doctors, physiotherapy services and space for the medical learners who train at the site as part of a rural family medicine program.

'It's a dream come true,' says doctor

Of greatest significance to Dow, however, is that the expansion means that in the next two years every person in Clare, Digby and Weymouth who needs and wants a family doctor will get one.

There are currently 3,884 people on the need a family practice registry and the expansion will make room for up to 4,000 more patients.

"It's a dream come true," said Dow.

"It's hard to believe that, you know, 20 years ago we had a dream and now it's come to this."

Officials with Nova Scotia Health announced Monday that they would increase operational funding for the site to the tune of $64,000 a month to cover the additional services.

Melanie Mooney with the health authority called the health centre "a shining example of sustainable recruitment and retention" of primary care providers.

"If you visit any community in Nova Scotia — and yes, you can actually say any community — that is talking about recruitment in primary health care, you're going to eventually hear someone say, 'Well, why don't we talk to somebody in Clare and see what they're doing.'"

Dr. Michelle Dow is medical director of the Clare Health Centre.
Dr. Michelle Dow is medical director of the Clare Health Centre.

Dr. Michelle Dow is medical director of the Clare Health Centre. (Michael Gorman/CBC)

The community has employed a targeted, long-standing focus on cultivating local students with an interest in health care and staying in touch with them as they go through their studies.

That effort has led to people coming to work in the community and sticking around. The success of the process is what drove the latest expansion.

The municipality is self-funding the $6.5-million construction cost of the expansion and local officials say the increased operating agreement is what they needed to bring everything together.

Warden Yvon LeBlanc said the expansion is the latest example of what the community can achieve when everyone works together.

"I feel that it's a great baseline for all the other communities to work off of," he said in an interview.

"You can move further ahead faster if everybody works together."

Yvon LeBlanc is warden of the Municipal of the District of Clare.
Yvon LeBlanc is warden of the Municipal of the District of Clare.

Yvon LeBlanc is warden of the Municipal of the District of Clare. (Michael Gorman/CBC)

The new space is expected to be ready this summer. Dow joked that she's so excited about it that she's delaying her retirement.

"I want to work there," she said.

"I can't wait for that to open."

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