New Amherstburg Family Health Team building officially open


The Amherstburg Family Health Team’s (AFHT) new building is officially open. Cutting the ribbon were (from left): Dr. Tim O’Callahan, AFHT board chair Sharon Pillon, Mayor Wayne Hurst and AFHT executive director Ann Robson.

The Amherstburg Family Health Team’s (AFHT) new building is officially open. Cutting the ribbon were (from left): Dr. Tim O’Callahan, AFHT board chair Sharon Pillon, Mayor Wayne Hurst and AFHT executive director Ann Robson.

By Ron Giofu


A dream members of the Amherstburg Family Health Team (AFHT) once had is now a reality as the medical organization now has its own building.

The official opening and ribbon cutting at the new AFHT office occurred last Friday afternoon with AFHT board chair Sharon Pillon stating it was “a dream come true” for the board, physicians and others involved with the organization. The new 6,600-square-foot space is an upgrade over the 1,800 -square-foot space they had in the Seasons Amherstburg building.

The new building, which was stated to be a $2.5 million project at the groundbreaking in April, sits in front of the Seasons Amherstburg retirement village at 721 Sandwich St. S.

“This building has been a long time in the visioning and planning,” said Pillon.

Pillon noted the concept of a separate building for the AFHT was always “very well supported by the town of Amherstburg” with the opening ceremony and open house that followed seeing all members of town council attend at various points. She added they lease the space from the Amico Group with the Ministry of Health and the four physicians that practise within the AFHT paying the costs.

Carolyn Davies, a member of the AFHT board, said the idea for a Family Health Team began in 2003 when she was chair of the Amherstburg Community Services (ACS) board of directors. The town had been identified as an underserviced area and “I knew this kind of model of care would translate to the community well.”

The first AFHT board was created in 2006 with Paul Hertel as its first chair. Davies, now also a town councillor, pointed out the new building received donations from the Shores of Erie International Wine Festival, the Amherstburg Lions Club and Amherst Quarries in the amounts of $15,000, $3,500 and $30,000 respectively.

Davies noted there is “potential growth space,” adding they can now bring in medical students, expanded services, outside medical organizations and other health-related amenities. She stated the AFHT is a not-for-profit organization that accepts donations and provides treatment for health and illness issues as well as information on illness prevention based on the community’s needs.

“We’ll work towards trying to bring new services to the Amherstburg Family Health Team,” she said.

“We look forward to the community’s input,” added Pillon.

Lead physician Dr. Tim O’Callahan said having a new building is more than just having a new structure or “a new, pretty place to practise in” as it also allows for expansion of services and possibly the addition of new physicians. He said the waiting room is much larger than the old location as are the examination rooms.

There are extra rooms which “give us a lot of flexibility about how we’re working right now” but also allow the AFHT “room to grow.” O’Callahan said new doctors toured the old location and showed interest in practising there but the limited space restricted the availability of when there would be room for them to practise medicine.

The extra space could also attract new nurse practitioners as well, said O’Callahan, with the opportunity for new medical professionals also allowing for the opportunity to grow their patient roster.

Increased space also allows for more room for wheelchairs, motorized scooters or other mobility aids, he noted.

A pharmacy is being built immediately next door to the AFHT and O’Callahan added the AFHT will be able to collaborate with pharmacists once the latter is open. The pharmacy is supposed to open in mid-December.

O’Callahan added there is also a possibility of a fitness studio or exercise training establishment also going into the building. The entire building is almost 11,000-square-feet.

The new building also allows for enhanced visibility and visual proof the Amherstburg Family Health Team is “a standalone medical practise,” said O’Callahan. He noted there has been a misconception the AFHT was only for Seasons Amherstburg residents when it is, in fact, able to be accessed by the entire community.

The AFHT location also has space for educational sessions, a children’s waiting room, multi-disciplinary areas, a boardroom and offices for staff.

Mayor Wayne Hurst said the building became a reality because of the “persistence of so many people” adding “it takes collaboration and people working in concert and that’s what happened in this case.

“This truly defines what Amherstburg is all about,” he added. “We are proud and pleased of all your efforts.”

Hurst also pointed out the efforts of former Essex MPP Bruce Crozier in getting a Family Health Team for Amherstburg.

“He worked very hard and as best he could to make this happen,” Hurst said of Crozier, the latter having died June 4, 2011.

In addition to O’Callahan, doctors David Carswell, Pavan Chand and Danish Mazhar practise at the AFHT along with a number of nurses, nurse practitioners, a social worker, a nutritionist and other health professionals.

The building that now houses the AFHT is planned as the first of two phases, with the second being a proposed 12,000-square-foot building next to the first phase. The timing of when that building would be built is based on demand and would also see the relocation of the existing driveway into the Seasons facility. The driveway will stay where it is until the second phase is added.

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