Located in northern Ontario, Mattawa is a small town that was originally a settling area for families who came to work in the growing lumber industry back in the 1800s. As its population steadily increased, eventually the town needed a hospital.
With the town people’s needs in mind, three nuns from the order now known as the Sisters of Charity arrived in the community to open a small, five-bed hospital. In addition to providing hospital care the Sisters helped sick lumberjacks on their sites and tried to offer the best treatments possible.
That was in 1878. In 1885, a new two-storey hospital was constructed on the current site, but was destroyed by fire 16 years later. After the devastating loss, the small northern community (about an hour east of North Bay), rallied together to rebuild the hospital, which was completed in 1902. That 52- bed hospital serviced the local Mattawa region and was known as the “Pride of the North”. Eventually, a new wing was added making the hospital able to accommodate more patients.
Since its early days, the hospital has been impacted by fire damage again, gone through several ownership changes and experienced other changes, but stands proud today, serving its community. In 1992, it was officially designated as bilingual under the French-Language Services Act.
It’s been a long road
The current Mattawa hospital is nothing short of exceptional, in terms of quality of care, attention to the needs of its community and ability to serve patients to the utmost of its capacity. A faith-based hospital, Mattawa Hospital provides health care and services in the Catholic tradition and values of holistic and multidisciplinary care.
Guy Chartrand is the President of Mattawa Hospital and has been part of yet another rebuilding of Mattawa Hospital—a successful attempt at making the facility suitable for the growing community and district. Chartrand says that the hospital, in line with its roots with the Sisters in the 1800s, “has a determined workforce and community”.
The new hospital, as it is today, has been 41 years in the making. Portables for construction were originally put up in 1967. “The community was set on having their own hospital and everyone worked really hard, banded together and they’ve never given up. It’s a very persistent culture, and at the end of the day, the hospital is a beautiful place,” Chartrand beams.
Small town, big dreams
Being in a small town certainly doesn’t mean Mattawa has small dreams for its hospital. “I think people focus on the bigger hospitals— they receive the most attention, because there’s so much happening there. But at the end of the day, there is a need for smaller hospitals around the bigger hubs,” he explains. Mattawa hospital currently offers more than just beds and standard care. It offers an Emergency Department, Ambulatory Care, an Inpatient Unit, Diagnostic Imaging, Laboratory Services, Physiotherapy, facilities for mental health and other community services. Chartrand believes smaller hospitals need to figure out what services are needed in their areas and cater to their communities. However, he adds that in order to be viable, smaller hospitals need to “integrate with bigger centres, yet differentiate with what exactly you will do to support the district”. In that case, Mattawa needs to serve its community and support the Nipissing district.
“We’re catering to a 7,100 population base, and the district of Nipissing is just about 100,000 people. We have a hospital in North Bay but October 2009 The Canadian Business Journal 143 Mattawa Hospital it is 80km away. So we are no different than any typical hospital [because of the services Mattawa Hospital provides],” Chartrand insists. “As part of our positioning pillar, we plan to repatriate patients from North Bay and do rehab here, to offset the high flows of patients. Once they get their surgery, they can come here.”
A leader in Nipissing
Mattawa Hospital not only treats patients onsite, it is also the leader in preventative care in the district. “We have an agreement with the local physicians that they will re-localize all their practices on our grounds here,” explains Chartrand, “so we can become a bigger facility, offering a broader continuum of care—from family medicine, to ER , to hospital visits”. He adds that having paramedics is a really valuable asset in smaller communities with a small volume of physicians, so Mattawa Hospital has emphasized the role of paramedics in the community. The hospital also works with the Algonquin Nursing Home.
“My mission is to preserve health care in this community and make it viable and prosperous for the future,” he concludes. “You have to look at integration to make yourself more viable in a field where 70 per cent of hospitals are in deficit and you can’t make cuts. Our integration approach is going to be two pronged: we’re focused on local vertical integration and horizontal integration. Vertical integration includes extending services within the community so we can build a sustainable infrastructure and be better positioned to meet needs. Horizontal integration means that we work with the hospital in North Bay to integrate systems like our IT support to have a more efficient service.”
In any case, Mattawa, with its new facility, over a hundred years in the making, is ready to service its community, and further support local populations in Ontario’s north.