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We need a health centre for our children

The founding publisher of Sudbury Living in now president of the NEO Kids Foundation.


What goes around truly does come around…It’s hard to believe three years have passed since I hung up my publisher’s hat and took my career on a completely different path that has ironically led me back to the same people I built relationships with during more than 25 years of traipsing the north.
As publisher of Northern Ontario Business, Sudbury Mining Solutions Journal, Northern Ontario Medical Journal, and the Sudbury Living Magazine Group, the people I met while hosting events and scouting for good stories are the same people I now meet with to discuss the critical need for NEO Kids – a health centre for children in northeastern Ontario.
While travelling the 800,000 kilometres of Northern Ontario’s communities and cities, it never occurred to me that there was something wrong with the fact we didn’t have a health centre for our children. Like many people I talk to, I never noticed because I personally didn’t need pediatric services.
I was fortunate to have healthy children who never needed health care outside of the occasional trip to our family doctor. But I’ve since learned thousands and thousands of our children require specialized health care annually and they have to head south to get it.
What is alarming are the numbers themselves: 3,900 children and their families make 10,000 trips annually to Toronto, Ottawa and London to receive care – that’s a 23 percent increase over the past five years.
Pediatric visits to Health Sciences North (HSN) have also increased over the past five years, from 20,000 to 35,000. And over the next 10 years, pediatric visits are expected to increase by 40 percent. Wow!
Those projected increases for specific services include ADHD clinic, FASD clinics, pediatric oncology and Botox clinics (for rheumatoid arthritis among other applications).
As I learn more about the tremendous need for a health-care centre for our children, the more confounded I become as to why we don’t have one yet? Northern Ontario constitutes 80 percent of Ontario’s massive landmass, yet we don’t have ONE health centre for our children.
How can it be OK for families with sick children or children with ongoing health care needs to have to drive hundreds of kilometres south to get that care?
How is it acceptable to continue this trend knowing that we can make a difference?
I have come to the conclusion the northeast needs NEO Kids now.
We need to tell citizens and show families that children are important to all of us and that taking care of their health now will affect our future health-care needs. These families are our neighbours, relatives, friends, employees and co-workers.
NEO Kids Health Centre would treat more of our children closer to home. It would allow us to have more pediatricians to provide the specialized care our children need right here in the north. It would keep families together during a time when families should be together. It would proactively proclaim that we care for our kids in the north and we want to provide them with the health care they need, just as we did when we built the cancer centre 25 years ago to care for our cancer patients rather than send them away for treatment.
So why are we sending our children away for treatment?
Let’s treat them closer to home. NEO Kids now. There’s no other way.

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