Ever since the first patient was treated at the first City of Lakes Family Health Team clinic 10 years ago, the medical team has embodied the province’s goal of creating more accessible health care.
Today, there are four sites and 17 physicians looking after the health-care needs of nearly 20,000 patients.
Being recognized as a Community Builder is “a great way to celebrate those 10 years,” while looking ahead to even more improvements in the years to come, says David Courtemanche, the team’s executive director.
Sudbury and Val Caron City of Lakes Family Health Team clinics opened in 2008. The Walden clinic opened in 2011, and a Chelmsford clinic opened in 2017.
“What’s happened in the last 10 years, not just locally but across the province, there’s been a transformation,” says Courtemanche. “Primary care is being seen across the province as the centrepiece of the health-care system.”
The Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care started promoting and supporting the formation of family health teams to provide improved primary care in 2005, with funding for the first 100.
Courtemanche estimates there were around 50 clinics that already operated with a model that qualified, but another 50 were formed and applied for funding in response to the move, and City of Lakes was one of them.
“It started when I was the mayor of Sudbury. Dr. Chris McKibbon approached me in about 2005 and asked ‘Would the city support this application?’ Of course, our answer was yes.”
Courtemanche credits Catherine Matheson, Sudbury’s general manager of community development, with the idea of converting surplus buildings in the region into clinics as rent-free space.
The health team clinic was approved as one of the first 100 family health teams in the province thanks to its unique partnership with the City of Greater Sudbury.
The number of family health teams in the province is now upwards of 185, and they’ve become the new norm in health care.
Family health teams bring together interdisciplinary teams of physicians, nurse practitioners, and other health-care providers under one practice to ensure comprehensive coverage for patients.
“This model of health care provides equal access to primary care for all residents of Greater Sudbury,” says Matheson.
Courtemanche sees this in action at the Sudbury clinics every day.
“The team really is focused on building collaborative relationships, there are professionals working alongside other disciplines, like dietitians and social workers.
“This collaborative relationship extends to the one we have with our patients and community partners.”
The services offered by the clinic team range from basic physicals and health promotion, to the treatment of minor illnesses and chronic disease. Whether a patient is looking to quit smoking, improve their diet, or assess their mental health, the team has specialists who can assist them.
An Electronic Medical Records System and the latest in health information technology reflect the family health team’s commitment to innovation in the field.
The team collaborates with a range of community partners including Health Sciences North, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM), and the Northeast Local Health Integration Network to enhance the care experience for all residents of Greater Sudbury.
The team is always looking for ways to improve, with patience experience at the fore of their efforts, according to Courtemanche. And, their efforts show.
“We do annual surveys with our patients and the feedback is overwhelming in terms of the experience they’re having,” says Courtemanche. “It really reinforces that sense of professionalism and caring.”
The future’s looking bright for the family health team, with projections of serving 24,000 patients in the next couple years.
The clinics attract new talent from the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM), which in turn ensures a steady supply of fresh ideas for the dynamic, forwardthinking team.
“If you talk to medical students, there’s an overwhelming emerging generation of family physicians who want to practise in teams, and that reflects the transformation happening in the health-care system,” says Courtemanche.