Diabetes clinic moves into town

Summer reporter
Stephanie Hagenaars

A grand opening was held Friday at the new Fort Frances Tribal Area Health Services’ diabetes and foot care clinic that relocated to town earlier this year.
Despite opening the centre in March, Sandra McNay, RPN and foot care nurse at the clinic, said the festivities were to raise awareness about the clinic, which provides diabetes education and screening, as well as foot care, to the 10 First Nations’ communities in the Fort Frances area.
“We’ve just expanded leaps and bounds in the last year,” noted McNay.
“Six years ago when I started here, there was maybe 12 of us [on staff],” she remarked. “And now we’re over 80.”
The clinic moved from its old location at Couchiching for a bigger space here in Fort Frances.
The grand-opening celebrations included draws, goodie bags, and a free lunch.
The FFTAHS serves Mishkisiminziibiibiing (Big Grassy River), Couchiching, Seine River, Mitaanjigaaming, Lac La Croix, Naicatchewenin (Northwest Bay), Ojibways of Onigaming, Nigigoonsiminikaaning (Red Gut), Rainy River, and Anishinaabeg (Big Island) First Nations, who came together because they wanted various health services provided specifically for their communities.
Currently, there are five locations throughout the area that offer services to these communities, including behavioural health, a nursing station, treatment centre, public health and “Jordan’s Principle” office, and the new diabetes and foot care centre.
Not only does the new clinic serve those who walk through the door, they also will take their services to their clients.
“We’ll just bring our gear and hop in a vehicle and go to Big Island, [for example],” said McNay. “It’s great!”
The clinic also has a chiropodist–a foot care doctor–who visits once a month for three days to provide foot care services to the surrounding area.
“He comes and he fits people for orthodics, he’ll do toenail removal, whatever people need,” McNay noted.
Dr. Dave Smith, who has been practising chiropody for 31 years, travels from Thunder Bay and spends one day in one of the surrounding First Nations’ communities and the rest of his time at the clinic here.
He has been making the trip for the last 18 years.
Dr. Smith initially made the trip every two months but it soon became a once-per-month visit.
“They actually approached me,” he noted.
“They were looking to start up a diabetic foot initiative so they were reaching out to chiropodists because there was nobody here at that time in Fort Frances.”
The clinic, located at the Rainy Lake Plaza on King’s Highway, is open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m.-3 p.m.
It is available to all status First Nations by appointment or walk-in, with no referral required.