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Plans to open community clinic in Port au Choix

Joanie Cranston, a physiotherapist, speaks to the public about opening a community clinic in Port au Choix during a meeting on May 28.
Joanie Cranston, a physiotherapist, speaks to the public about opening a community clinic in Port au Choix during a meeting on May 28. - Contributed

Support for community clinic grows in Port au Choix area; facility would be operated as social enterprise

PORT AU CHOIX, N.L. —

Chris Biggin has been making the long trek to Deer Lake and Norris Point for physiotherapy treatment for about a year and a half now.
The Port Saunders man requires treatment for his shoulder and back. But travelling 175 km to Norris Point or 225 km to Deer Lake can take its own toll on the body.
He has travelled as frequently as twice a week and says the travel basically negates any benefits he receives from the physiotherapy.
“It defeats the purpose,” he told The Northern Pen.
Then there's the cost of gas and accommodations, and the time it chews up.
So, he was thrilled to hear last week about plans to open a clinic in nearby Port au Choix.
On May 28, Biggin was among locals who gathered at Dr. Irfan’s Medical Clinic in Port au Choix to discuss the possibility of creating a not-for-profit community corporation to develop the Great Northern Peninsula Community Clinic.
The clinic would be located in the building that houses Dr. Irfan’s clinic. The doctor has offered the space for free.
It would be run as a social enterprise, with all of its profits being reinvested back into the clinic.
The space would include private treatment rooms available for rent to visiting professionals, such as physiotherapists, occupational therapists and massage therapists.
There would also be a mini-gym, a community kitchen or meeting room and accommodations for visiting professionals.
Dr. Irfan would continue his practice as a family physician in the other half of the building.
The concept, devised and presented by physiotherapist Joanie Cranston, received unanimous support at the meeting.
Cranston has been running a physiotherapy clinic in Norris Point for 30 years, 175 km outside of Port au Choix.
She visits Port au Choix three days each month to provide physiotherapy treatment. But she knows there’s a need for more physiotherapy in the area.
“We’ll be looking to recruit another physio so we can provide a more comprehensive service,” she told The Northern Pen. “Because three days a month is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s really a need for a full-time physio.”
Currently, many people have to travel for physiotherapy because it’s difficult to get an appointment in Port au Choix.
Biggin is one of those people.
“It would be a tremendous asset to have that right in our backyard,” he said. “Not having the expense, not having the torture and the pain and the aggravation of the travel.
“I hope the area supports this initiative in whatever way we can.”
Meanwhile, the town council of Port au Choix supports the proposal.
Susan White, the town’s deputy mayor, told The Northern Pen council was in full support of the initiative. It passed a motion during its meeting on May 6 to approve the not-for-profit.
White, who attended the meeting on May 28, was enthusiastic about the idea.
“Everybody at the meeting, plus people I talk to in the community, all think it’s a great concept and it’s an idea we hope goes well,” she said.
Cranston and White both expressed gratitude to Dr. Irfan for donating his time and space for the clinic.

The next steps
When Cranston visits Port au Choix again, she intends to host another meeting to organize a board of directors for the enterprise.
She hopes to get representation throughout the region from the Flower’s Cove area to Daniel’s Harbour.
Once the not-for-profit is formed, they will be seeking funding through various channels, including through the provincial government.
“The first thing we need is funding for renovations, and we need funding for human resources to make this happen,” she said. “And then maybe a little bit of seed funding, maybe, for the first-year operating costs.”
Cranston knows it can take a while, but, best case scenario, she believes the clinic could be open by late spring or early summer.

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