Bonavista to get new community wellness centre

The $2.2-million centre, which will combine healthcare providers with wellness services, is set to open next summer.

Former school being renovated for $2.2-million centre to deliver primary health care and wellness services

Bonavista will have a new community wellness centre next summer. (Kate Lahey)

A new $2.2-million community wellness centre in Bonavista will be "a jewel at the end of the peninsula," said Health Minister John Haggie.

The centre will the town's main access point for primary health care services, focusing on chronic disease management, public health, home and community supports, and mental health and addictions.

The building will include various healthcare service providers along with facilities like a gymnasium and a fitness room, in a way that is meant to break down the barriers between health care and wellness, Haggie said.

"It will open up all sorts of new possibilities," he said.

"For example, simply having drop-in counselling in an area where there's a gymnasium and some recreational activities takes the stigma away from mental health in a way that in and of itself will be beneficial."

Hopes to attract new graduates

The centre will be a partnership between the Town of Bonavista, Tip-A-Vista Wellness, the Bonavista Primary Health Care Community Advisory Committee, the Discovery Health Foundation and Eastern Health, which will operate the facility.

The province will contribute $500,000 to construction, with annual operating costs expected to be about $130,000.

It's a homegrown solution to health care that was triggered by the loss of healthcare providers but that the health minister believes will help bring new professionals to the area.

"They have worked really hard. There's a huge energy in the community here," Haggie said of Bonavista Mayor John Norman and the mayors of surrounding communities, who worked together to secure the health and wellness centre.

"These kind of things become magnets for new graduates and new trainees."

There's a huge energy in the community here.- John Haggie

Housing several different health and wellness services in one building also helps reduce the stigma associated with accessing those services, Haggie said.

"Each of the entities where you've seen these, these joint partnerships have adopted their own kind of flavour in terms of reducing stigma around mental health," he said.

"In Lab West, the steelworkers have a drop-in [mental health] clinic in their union hall. In Marystown, it's just simply part of the regular clinic. You could be going there for a blood pressure check. It blends physical and mental health, but also in this particular instance it puts wellness into the mix as well."

Community engagement key

The model is similar to ones used in other Newfoundland and Labrador communities, including Botwood, Grand Bank, Gander, Happy Valley-Goose Bay and Corner Brook. The successes in other areas, such as Burin and in Labrador, shows the importance of community involvement in health and wellness, Haggie said.

"It's all been down to community engagement; taking ownership of their own wellness and not just looking to health care to fix problems," he said.

Renovations on the former Cabot Collegiate school, which will be the site of the centre, have already begun, and completion is expected for summer of 2019. 

The centre will become home to the town's primary health-care team, which is made up of doctors, nurses, a diabetes educator, dietitian, pharmacist, physiotherapist, occupational therapist, and social workers.

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador