Naish says Saint Andrews wellness centre on track to open in October

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Saint Andrews – A new wellness centre is being created at the W. C. O’Neill Arena in the Town of Saint Andrews, and it is on track to open October 31. Mayor Doug Naish said they have even moved onto the next stage in the process, which is to request for proposals to seek a private operator to go in and set up and operate a fitness centre. They are hoping to find a private operator who already has experience in operating a fitness center and who would like to expand their operations.

“Council decided that we didn’t want to be in the operational part of running a fitness centre, because we don’t know anything about it,” said Naish. “Then there are lots of, we hope, private operators who may already be in the fitness centre business that want to expand and would like to set something up for us in our centre.

“One of the attractions that we have in our proposal is that we’re prepared to cover a lot, maybe not all, but a lot of the overhead, because it’s a public building and we’re already paying for the heat and the taxes and all that.”

The new wellness centre will be a replacement for the current health centre, which Naish said is a “little long in the tooth”. The health centre has been operating since the 1970s, and thanks to the generosity of the Dunn Foundation, council was given the opportunity to create a new wellness centre.

“The Dunn Foundation approached us almost three years ago now and said, ‘look, we would be interested in financially supporting a newer primary healthcare centre to serve the health needs of the community’. So, we negotiated with them.”

Naish said it was quite lucky the call centre which had been located in the arena building closed. That gave them a large space to work with, and they were looking for a purpose for this space. When they were able to receive financial aid from the Dunn Foundation, they decided this would be the ideal space for a new wellness centre. They did “extensive community consultation” to learn what people really wanted, and decided that it made good financial sense to use the space that was already available to them.

“We’re actively under construction. So far, we’re still on schedule to open the new wellness centre at the end of October.”

Originally, the space for the wellness centre was a bowling alley when the building was constructed in the 1960s. Naish said that was covered over and a call centre went in and operated out of the same space for 17 years. When the call centre closed, the inside of that part of the building was demolished, “right down to the concrete floors”.

“That was quite a massive undertaking,” said Naish. “Over one winter, our public works staff demolished the inside of the arena to get it down to basically a bare shell so we could rebuild. We brought in Toss Designers from Saint John, and I think it’s going to be fabulous.

“They did a marvelous job. They involved everybody that’s going to work there. There was a lot of consultation, and everyone seems quite pleased with the outcome.”

In addition to having the ideal space for a wellness centre, Naish said there is another huge advantage to using the arena building, and that is parking. There is plenty of parking available, and people can park right in front of the wellness centre.

Currently, the health centre on Sophia Street has a physician, a physiotherapist, and a part-time nurse practitioner. Naish said when the new wellness centre opens, they hope to have two doctors, a full-time nurse practitioner, and dental care services. The town is also seeking proposals for an operator for the dental centre, as well as looking for a second doctor.

“We are also actively trying to recruit a second doctor,” said Naish. “We have a recruitment committee. We know how difficult it is trying to recruit doctors for any community, but I think that we’re hopeful we’ve got a lot going for us in Saint Andrews for a lot of reasons, including a brand new primary health care centre for a doctor to practice in.”

Naish said the new wellness facility will have space for two doctors, a nurse practitioner, two physiotherapists, and a dental practice. There is a dentist in town at the moment, but he is planning his retirement and will not be moving his practice to the new wellness centre. The town is hoping that they can find someone who will come in on the same basis as the fitness centre to operate a dental practice.

With construction running on schedule, Naish said they will be opening the doors to the new wellness centre on October 31, as planned. They are currently waiting for responses to their fitness centre proposal request, and are actively searching for a dental practitioner. Naish sees this as an opportunity for town residents to be able to have all of their health needs taken care of under one roof.

“It’s really good,” said Naish. “We’ve set up a collaborative practice that I think is going to be awesome once it’s in place. We have the facility, we have the overhead covered. We’re really looking forward to having a very modern and functional primary healthcare facility right in the town.”

sarigreen@stcroixcourier.ca