Official Opening DEC.18
Bill Davis to Open Regent Health Centre
By Don Weitz
Seven News, December 14, 1973
After 4 ½ years of organizing, planning and numerous meetings with health professionals and governmental officials, Regent Park tenants have finally succeeded in getting their own community health centre. The Health Centre will open on Dec. 18, and the groundbreaking ceremony happened about three months ago.
The Regent Park Community Health Centre will be the first real community health centre in the Don District, Ward 7 and probably in all of Toronto as well. The Health Centre will eventually be community controlled – totally controlled by the tenants, and it will be for the exclusive use of Regent Park tenants.
Regent Park’s struggle to create its own health centre has largely been led by a committed and hard-working OHC tenant, Richard Boundy. Other tenants soon joined him and formed their own working committee, the Health Committee which grew directly out of the parent tenant group, R.P.C.I.A. (Regent Park Community Improvement Association).
Some of the major health issues around which the tenants organized were: 1) inadequate health facilities in the community; 2) total lack of family doctors; 3) total lack of dental care, and 4) high drug costs.
In organizing, the tenants held numerous meetings with health professionals from hospitals, governmental officials and social agencies. In the early planning stage, the tenants met with St. Michael’s Hospital (Dr. Peter Kopplin), Hospital for Sick Children (Dr. Ursula Anderson), the provincial Ministry of Health (Dr. Wigle) and the Social Planning Council (Cindy Nowena). In the later planning stage, the tenants consulted again with the Social Planning Council as well as OHIP and Margaret Scrivener, MPP.
During this organizing process, the tenants encountered at least two major conflicts; one involved funding from OHIP, the other involved disagreement over the basic type or structure of the health centre which the tenants wanted, as opposed to the type the Hospital for Sick Children advocated.
Also, there were two changes in the original plans for the Health Centre; setting up a community pharmacy which was later left out largely because of the Ministry’s disapproval and a total tenant-controlled Board of Directors, a goal which eventually will be achieved.
During the time of organizing, the only health care facility operating in the community has been the Regent Park Community Services Unit. The Services Unit, located at 70 Pashler Ave., provides medical service (1 family doctor one day a week) and emergency care, as well as a variety of social services organized around counselling, information and referral. When the Health Centre is established, the Service Unit plans to work closely with it.
The Health Centre will be located in South Regent Park on the ground floor of an OHC apartment building. The space provided consists of three adjoining suites. The area served is approximately one square mile; its geographical boundaries are: Gerrard St. E. on the north; Shutter St. on the south; Parliament St. on the west, and River St. on the east. The total population is approximately 10,000, the vast majority of whom are low-income, working class people from various ethnic backgrounds. Many are unemployed, on welfare, single-support mothers and old-age pensioners.
The staff of the Health Centre will consist of six health professionals: one administrator responsible for over-all co-ordination and accounting, two family doctors responsible for family practice, one nurse-practitioner (head nurse) and two nurses. Within the near future, the plans call for at least 6-8 additional staff; there will include a dentist, a dental hygienist, a dental assistant, a cleaner, a receptionist, a secretary, and one or two RNA’s (Registered Nursing Assistants). A few of these additional staff – particularly the RNA’s – will probably be directly recruited from the tenants themselves and trained by the health centre staff.
At first, the Health Centre will provide complete family practice, pre and post-natal care, home visits for the elderly and disabled, and 24-hr. emergency care with a doctor-on-call. The services planned include: dental care (by next January), mental health counselling and referral, nutrition-diet counselling and information.
The Health Centre will be open six days a week during the following hours: M, W & Th. 9-9, T & F, 9-5, and Sat., 9-12 a.m. Emergency house-calls will also be available on a 24-hr. basis.
The Health Centre is being funded by a short-term grant of $80,000 from the Research and Planning Branch of the provincial Ministry of Health. This grant will cover a 6-month period, Nov. 1973 to Apr. 1974.
The control of the Health Centre is in the hands of a 13-member Board of Directors. At present, this Board is mixed and is heavily weighted toward the professional side. Specifically, the Board consists of 8 professionals (including 4 ministers, 1 lawyer, 1 doctor and 1 MPP) and 5 tenants (elected from the R.P.C.I.A.). However, the plan is for a total, tenant controlled Board; this is to be achieved by replacing present Board members with two tenants each year.
Published in Seven News, Volume 4, Number 13, December 14, 1973