Residents of St. Thomas and Elgin are being “shortchanged” on physiotherapy services, charges Elgin-Middlesex-London Conservative MPP Jeff Yurek.
He stood up in the Ontario Legislature this week to question the Kathleen Wynne government on the closing of MobilityFit Physiotherapy in St. Thomas, one of only two such services in the city funded through OHIP.
Yurek alleges both the Southwest Local Health Integration Network (SW LHIN) and the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care have “refused to act on the impending loss of service.”
Yurek added, “When contacted for a status update, both the SW LHIN and ministry responded with the same talking points. Neither would state whether or not the clinic is closing.”
Operated by physiotherapist Laura Hey, she notes on the MobilityFit Facebook page, “After 16 years of private practice and 39 years in physiotherapy, Laura is moving into a new career phase . . . I have accepted a position as therapist with the Arthritis Society.”
For the time being, leaving Closing The Gap as the lone OHIP-funded clinic to serve St. Thomas and Elgin.
“It was highlighted by the surgeons at St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital who are quite concerned access will be limited for their patients,” Yurek told City Scope on Thursday.
There are numerous other facilities available, however clients would have to pay out of pocket or through private insurance, if covered.
Yurek is concerned about the seeming inaction by the SW LHIN to the closure.
“I find it fascinating they are not that much in touch with what is going on in our area. We have highlighted to them it is on Facebook and their voice message is saying they are closed and they (the SW LHIN) are not responding and neither is the Ministry of Health. I am hoping we have started something.”
That something should be to award a contract to another facility, advised Yurek.
“They had an RFP (request for proposal) a few years ago and there are a number of proponents who didn’t get awarded a contract, so there is interest.”
He doesn’t feel there is a need for more than two OHIP-funded clinics to serve the city and county.
“I haven’t heard of much of a wait list with two available. We just need to replace that part of the contract. I don’t expect to hear much on this issue but, personally, I would expect them to get on with it and fix the gap they have created.
“The election should have no bearing, in my mind, on whether they replace the service or not.”
It’s another symptom, stresses Yurek, of a government struggling with healthcare.
“I think this government is having a difficult time managing the health system and I think we are all suffering because of that. And you will be hearing more and more as we head into the election because something needs to change with regard to the healthcare system and how it is being managed.”
HOMELESSNESS – NOT SOMETHING YOU WOULD NORMALLY CHOOSE
St. Thomas is partnering with the local YWCA and other community agencies to conduct the first-ever homelessness count in the city and Elgin county.
The initiative is mandated by the province to measure the extent and nature of homelessness across Ontario. During the week of April 20-27, trained volunteers will survey individuals staying in shelters, short-term housing and sleeping rough to provide a snapshot of the more visible members of the homeless population.
Ralph West, housing services administrator for St. Thomas, says the information – combined with that obtained elsewhere in the province – will prove valuable in designing more effective programs to assist those who are homeless.
And that includes young people in the city and county.
“In the month of March, there were 13 youth who went through the Youth Homelessness Protocol,” noted West. “That would be 13 homeless youth in one single month.”
The protocol is a process that links homeless youth with a network of services that will assist them in obtaining or regaining housing. At the same time, minimizing the impact homelessness has on their lives.
The backbone of the protocol is the provincial 2-1-1 system, a free and confidential service available to anyone in Ontario that provides information and referrals to a wide array of community, social, health and government services.
At the launch of the protocol at the YWCA in St. Thomas, Lindsay Rice, chair of the Community Action Network, estimated there are approximately 100 homeless youth in St. Thomas and Elgin at any given time.
So how do you reach homeless individuals to participate in the survey, especially those sleeping rough?
“We’re going to try to draw them to us, rather than going to try to find them. We will be providing people with a small token of appreciation for their participation in the survey.
“And there are many places where we know people who are homeless take advantage of. Like Grace’s Cafe for breakfast and Destination Church and PSNE (Psychiatric Survivors Network of Elgin). There are a lot of logical locations where we can set up shop.”
The results of the survey will be made available as early as some time in May, stressed West.
“Although we will probably want to do that in some format that provides more than just numbers, to give some sort of context.
“And probably within another month, we will have a report to us from our consultant (OrgCode Consulting, Inc., of Mississauga) on what the numbers teach us about the existing programs we have in place for dealing with homelessness and the ways in which we might consider making changes to better address the problem.”
According to their website, OrgCode “works with non-profits, government, private companies and non-governmental organizations . . . We are catalysts for better outcomes . . . and positive social change.”
West notes, “We have an affordable housing study underway at the moment. One piece of that study is a lot of data about the housing issues in Elgin and St. Thomas.
“All of that data around what the housing difficulties are also answers the questions how it is people are homeless in our community and what sorts of measures can we take that would have an impact on that.
“And they may not be as obvious as making sure there are shelters and adequate food for people and so on. There may be larger system issues that might have an impact as well.”
As West so aptly reminds, “It’s not as if people choose to become homeless.”
The homelessness survey will be undertaken every two years to measure progress preventing and ending homelessness in St. Thomas and Elgin.
RUN WITH IT
Launched in 2012 as Lace Up for STEGH, the annual fundraiser has evolved into the Railway City Road Races (RCRR), with the fifth edition slated for Sept. 23 this year.
In 2016, the organization committee introduced the half marathon, which attracted 103 entrants for its inaugural run.
This week, organizers announced the half marathon will now honour former St. Thomas
Fire Chief Rob Broadbent, one of the early proponents of the half-marathon distance and an avid runner himself. It was Broadbent who developed the route, which starts in Port Stanley.
He was diagnosed with cancer last year and died a short time prior to the 2017 event, which attracted more than 500 participants.
“We are so pleased to also announce that the St. Thomas Professional Firefighters’ Association has agreed to sponsor this newly named race in honour of their leader, colleague and friend,” says race committee founding member Corinne Roos. “Rob had such a passion for his community, for running, and for helping others and it’s a fitting tribute to a wonderful man.”
On a personal note, I vividly remember covering a house fire on Wellington Street some years ago where the chief matter-of-factly jogged up to the scene as part of his morning run. I also recall a letter to the editor from the chief thanking the community after a spate of fires in 2013 in which he wrote, “There is a silver lining to the dark cloud of last week’s events, however, and that is this demonstration by our community we are a community, not just a city. We are neighbours who help our neighbours, we are strangers who help out strangers in need.”
So far, the RCRR has raised in excess of $80,000 for St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital and organizers anticipate they will pass the $100,000 mark this year.
Registration is now open for this year’s event at railwaycityroadraces.com. Those who register for the half marathon can take advantage of the Port Stanley Terminal Rail train to transport them from the CASO Station to Port Stanley for the start of the race.
HONOURS AND AWARDS
St. Thomas will pay tribute to this year’s Honours and Awards recipients at a banquet to be held 6 p.m. next Thursday (April 19) in the auditorium at Memorial Arena. For those interested in attending the banquet, tickets can be purchased from the parks and recreation department office in the Timken Centre.
Receiving the Mayor’s Award is the organization Citizens for Active Transportation, which vigorously promotes biking/cycling paths in addition to road and non-road pathways in the community.
The Youth Award will be presented to James Yuriaan for his volunteer work with youth through robotics and science.
The Youth STEM Group Award is on its way to St. Joseph’s High School for their Renaissance Robotics Program.
In the Special Contribution category, Jill Foster and Shaun Taylor for the invaluable #ivegotyourback911 first responders support program.
Don Burgess is the recipient of the Good Citizen Award for his tireless efforts as a VON and Meals on Wheels volunteer driver with 100 rides in a single month.
Individual Volunteer Awards will be handed out to Wendy Jackson for her involvement with Girl Guides and Scouts over the past 30 years and to John Laing, the founder of the St. Thomas Accessible Tennis Program.
As current men’s slo-pitch gold medal national champions, the St. Thomas Heat pick up the Sports Team National Award.
Still with a team award, the St. Thomas Jr. Stars Minor Atom A team are the 2017 Ontario Minor Hockey Association champions and will be honoured with the Sport Team Provincial Award.
Kenzie Kilmer is a world gold medal kick boxing champion and is to be honoured with an Individual International/World Award
And the duo of pitcher/shortstop Brendan Johnston and pitcher/third baseman Zach Banks pick up Individual National Awards as members of the London Badger Canadian National U-18 baseball champions.
Congratulations to all recipients for their outstanding sport, volunteer and special contributions to the community.
Two thumbs up to D.J. Kennington and Gaunt Brothers Racing for their decision to honour the victims of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash via a special logo on the hood of his #96 Toyota Camry.
The St. Thomas racer is running in this weekend’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway, his first career NASCAR Cup Series start on the half-mile track.
Kennington has three previous starts at Bristol in the NASCAR Xfinity Series with a best finish of 29th in 2008.
Also paying tribute to the Broncos this weekend at Bristol is Michael Annett in the #5 Chevrolet of JR Motorsports. Annett is a native of Des Moines, Iowa, who says he remembers the bus rides when he played minor hockey.
Questions and comments may be emailed to: City Scope
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