More than just a medical centre

StCatharinesStandard.ca – news – Quest Community Health Centre officially opens
June 25, 2011.   By Karena Walter, Standard Staff

As a physician, Dr. Barbara Bennett said she’s used to dealing with a small component of a person’s life.

Often though, the medical piece a patient comes to see her about isn’t their greatest problem. There are housing and emotional issues. Mental health and dietary needs.

“Medical care can be a drop in the bucket,” she said.

It’s why Bennett said she likes practising medicine at the Quest Community Health Centre, which celebrated the official opening of its interim site Friday at 145 Queenston St.

The centre offers health care services to people experiencing social, economic and cultural barriers.

The idea behind the community health centre is to treat the person, not just their ailment.

Bennett’s medical care is supported by a team of dieticians, nurses and counsellors, all working under one roof. They can deal with needs that normally can’t be addressed in an average 10-minute visit to a family doctor.

“To have outreach workers, housing workers, to bring a dietician in — it’s invaluable,” Bennett said.

It’s estimated 30,000 people are living in poverty in St. Catharines.

Bennett said patients can be completely honest about their situation.

“They can tell us they’re on methadone. They can tell us they are sex workers. And we can get them on a plan.”

Dr. Jim Brooks, another physician at Quest, said patients know they won’t be judged when they come into the centre.

“No one is turned away, which is an amazing feature of Quest,” he said.

Brooks said they may have been incarcerated, they may be isolated. They may have had a history of trauma in their lives.

He said patients get the feeling someone cares. There are therapists and people who can connect them to social services or give them help filling out documents, such as for health cards. Many can’t read.

“It’s an amazing environment to work in,” Brooks said.

Quest was originally called the Greater St. Catharines Community Health Centre. It opened its interim site Jan. 24, with plans to move into the building permanently. Since January, it has signed up 900 patients. Program manager Jenny Stranges said that number is expected to climb to 1,500 by year’s end.

Quest also delivers services at Start Me Up Niagara and St. Catharines Collegiate.

Stranges said the centre helps people who experience barriers to service and who might not be managed well in the regular system.

“Their needs are much more complex then a regular health practitioner can provide,” Stranges said, adding the centre offers a one-stop shopping model to meet their needs.

Helen Hegedus said she’s been coming to Quest since it opened, preferring it to a family doctor.

“My doctor takes more time with me,” she said of Quest.

Bennett confirmed doctors do take about 30 minutes with patients, compared to the average 10 minutes.

Hegedus said she also saves time having things done at Quest by a nurse practitioner, such as prescription refills or blood pressure tests, that required multiple appointments with her doctor before.

“What they’re doing here is wonderful. What they’re doing here helps everyone,” said Elizabeth Mariage, who isn’t a patient but heard about the service from the Women 4 Women program at Westview Christian Fellowship Church down the street.

Mariage said although she has a family doctor, she was interested in speaking with a Quest dietician after discovering she has a wheat allergy and must eat gluten-free foods. She also wanted to take advantage of their dental care, because she doesn’t have a dentist.

“If you don’t keep your teeth well, your body isn’t well.”

kwalter@stcatharinesstandard.ca

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