The NorWest Community Health Centre is expanding its reach in Thunder Bay.

Thunder Bay-Atikokan MPP Bill Mauro announced more than $8 million for a two-storey expansion to the Simpson Street health clinic on Thursday.

Shovels will hit the ground on the project on Monday and it’s expected to be completed by next fall.

The expansion will include 16 new exam rooms, two chiropody/foot care rooms, two rooms with workstations for primary care staff and an education and training room.

“We’ve been working long and hard to get this expansion to the original site,” said Wendy Talbot, CEO of the NorWest Community Health Centre. “This expansion will help us to provide much more efficient care to our clientele . . . not just clinical services, but also health promotion programs, parenting programs, diabetes programs.”

The health centre is a multi-disciplinary organization and Talbot said the addition will not only improve efficiency but safety as well.

“Right now we have an overcrowded facility that doesn’t allow us to properly address some of the needs of our community,” she said. “This addition will certainly allow us to partner more with community organizations and to expand and develop more programs as needed.”

Limited space has caused the centre to turn down funding and partnership opportunities and Talbot said the expansion is the end of a long, hard trip.

“I am very pleased to see this finally happen,” she Talbot. “There were times my staff and my management team wondered if it would happen. It is finally happening and I think it will be a real bonus to this community.”

Mauro explained community health centres play a unique role in Ontario’s health-care system and they often serve hard-to-reach populations.

“This facility behind us is open seven days a week,” he said. “People can walk right in the front door. They almost always will receive service and they almost always will receive the service that’s appropriate for them.”

“This expansion is going to allow them to build on those services and continue to offer what’s really necessary and as a significant primary care provider in our whole health-care system here in Thunder Bay and in the district,” added the Liberal MPP.

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