This story is an update to “Pay now or pay later: the North End Community Health Centre dilemma.”

After months of waiting to learn what action if any the province will take to help the North End Community Heath Centre with its crumbling building, the answer is finally in: the centre will move in 2017.

Currently, the centre is split between to locations: 2165 Gottingen Street, home to the primary care centre, and the Johanna B. Oosterveld Centre at 2013 Gottingen Street, home to the emergency dental clinic and Mobile Outreach Street Health. The NECHC Association owns the primary care centre and leases the JBO. 

The new location is in the Major General Donald J. MacDonald Building at 2131 Gottingen Street. The centre will take over the ground and fifth floors, covering a total of 15,000 square feet, a 30-per-cent increase over the currently locations.

“Basically for two years we’ve been scouring Gottingen from Maitland to North streets,” says Rod Wilson, a physician and the centre’s executive director. He recently ran for the Liberals in the Halifax-Needham by-election, which he lost to NDP candidate Lisa Roberts.

In June, Halifax Magazine reported that the building at 2165 Gottingen Street was in dire need of repairs to the tune of $50,000 to $90,000.

The move was announced Monday at a joint press conference held by the centre, the Department of Health and Wellness, and the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA).

“The space we’re working in was designed in the 1980s for 12 people,” Wilson says. “Now we have 30 people working out of 2165 Gottingen. People are sharing desk and clinic space.”

Under the current situation, Wilson says, if he’s sick and has to cancel a day of appointments in the clinic he can’t rebook for the next day because another practitioner will be using the space.

At the current location, a single exam rooms must be prepared in between patients. Wilson speculates this will let his team serve more clients in a day. Most health care centres feature fewer practitioners than exam rooms, meaning a patient can be queued up in an exam room ready for his appointment when the doctor enters.

The NSHA, which holds a long-term lease in the building, will lease the two floors to the NECHC on a fixed-term for 10 years, with the option to renew for 5 years. The overall cost will be “a little less” than what the centre is paying for rent and maintenance at its two current locations.

The Department of Community Services and Corrections Canada are also in the building.

Wilson see this as a big plus. “I see all of the federal offenders, they’re my patients. We know that hallway conversations breakdown barriers. I’ve spoken to social workers a half a block away for years that I’ve never met. I think that one of the things this will do is create more collaboration.”

While Wilson says the move is a great opportunity for the centre, he’s not finished pushing the provincial government for more funding. “This gives us breathing room, but it doesn’t change the fact that we haven’t had an increase in our operational funding for eight years.”

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