The Rizzardo Health & Wellness Centre in Innisfil passed another milestone today with the official opening of the Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH) outpatient clinics at the facility.
“We promised residents of south Simcoe County that we would bring health care closer to home,” RVH president and CEO Janice Skot said, as she welcomed guests to the opening and ribbon-cutting and thanked all involved “for making this dream of the community a reality.
“We are open and ready for business," she added.
The Rizzardo Health and Wellness Centre is located at Yonge Street and Innisfil Beach Road.
The RVH outpatient clinics opened in December, initially providing pediatric services that included preschool speech-language pathology, preschool occupational therapy, infant hearing and preschool autism spectrum disorder diagnostic services.
Since then, additional clinics have opened, providing cardio-respiratory programs and testing, health services now offered within the community, saving Innisfil residents the “40 minute-plus drive” to RVH’s facility in Barrie's north end, Skot noted.
She called the 5,000-square-foot outpatient clinic at Innisfil's Rizzardo Centre “an important first step in RVH’s long-term, graduated plan to bring health care closer to home.”
That plan includes a south campus health hub, in either Innisfil or south-end Barrie, within the next 10 years that will eventually become a full hospital. Potential sites are still being evaluated and an announcement is expected later this year.
In the meantime, Skot said, the clinics at the Rizzardo Centre represent “a first step in an ambitious journey that we couldn’t have done without the support of so many.”
Nancy Savage, RVH's executive vice president of patient and family experience, described the clinics as part of its pledge to “put patients and families first.”
Additional clinics and services are still opening, she said, and will include cardio-respiratory services, a child and youth eating disorders clinic, stroke prevention, and internal medicine.
By March, the clinics will have seen about 4,000 patients, Savage said, and the annual number of visits is expected to exceed 14,000.
But “these are just numbers.” The real impact is on the lives of patients, she said.
Innisfil residents, like the mother who regularly took a two-hour bus trip each way to take her child to RVH, can now access those health services locally, “instead of having to load up the car and head to Newmarket, Barrie, or even Toronto.”
Among the guest speakers at Friday's opening were Barrie-Innisfil MPP Andrea Khanjin, Attorney General and Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte MPP Doug Downey, and Innisfil Mayor Lynn Dollin.
“Having health-care services in our own backyard has been a long-term vision,” said Dollin, noting the site of the Rizzardo Centre “was just a field two short years ago.”
The centre, which first opened its doors last May, now houses family physicians, a walk-in clinic, Georgian Radiology, LifeLabs, Canadian Mental Health Association, and Ontario Telemedicine Network, in addition to the RVH outpatient clinics.
“As you can see, construction is still ongoing,” said Dollin, with a pharmacy and community kitchen set to open later this year.
She thanked a long list of supporters and donors including the Rizzardo family whose initial generous donation kicked off the fundraising; former mayor Stewart Fisher, the Rotary Club of Innisfil, Eisses family and Innisfil Self Storage, and Boris Horodynsky, whose donation made the community kitchen possible.
“How special this moment is for us,” said Dollin. “The Rizzardo Centre was built for the community and by the community.”
Barbara Love, longtime champion of local health services in Innisfil, was also acknowledged for her “countless hours of planning, the research and preparation.”
Love was involved in the Innisfil community health committee, established under former mayor Barb Baguley, that initiated the push for local health services back in 2011, eventually resulting in construction of the Rizzardo Centre.
“Thanks to all of you for your role in making this happen,” Love told the crowd. “This is the beginning of wonderful things for Innisfil.”
The speeches were followed by the ribbon-cutting, and by a tour of the RVH clinic.
Rhea Taplin, RVH's manager for child and youth ambulatory care, talked about the impact that local pediatric services have already had in the community, since opening in December.
“Patient experience is already awesome at this site,” Taplin said. “We’ve already had parents saying this is going to change their life.”
She noted that one of the clinics expected to open shortly is a pediatric asthma clinic, and predicted that the impact will be “huge.”
Kids with asthma often require frequent visits to health providers; with the opening of RVH outpatient clinics at the Rizzardo Centre, access is “just around the corner… This becomes part of their life.”