Rotary House marks first anniversary

Peace River Rotary House is conveniently located next to the new medical clinic by the new Peace River Hospital. It is currently run by Northern Sunrise County.

News is mostly positive but public is slow to respond

Susan Thompson
South Peace News

After a full year of operation, Peace River’s Rotary House is getting a lot of use from Alberta Health Services, but the public has been slower to take advantage of the facility.

Rotary House representatives guided Peace River town council through a virtual tour and update on the facility at council’s regular meeting on Feb. 24. The board of directors has also recently presented to Northern Sunrise County and other municipalities.

Rotary House has a $45,000 shortfall in their budget for 2020 and has been speaking to municipalities to ask for support.

In previous years, the Town of Peace River has supported the facility with $24,000 annually.

However, some of the facility’s final budget numbers are still to be determined. While the estimated budget is based on the first year of operation, Rotary House is still finalizing a long-term lease agreement with North Peace Housing Foundation and is not certain yet exactly what the final lease costs will be.

Meanwhile, occupancy numbers show the facility is serving its purpose.

“We’ve had a really good uptake from Alberta Health,” says Richard Rhodes, who co-chairs the Rotary House board along with Kelly Whalen.

“AHS is using the facility actually beyond the capacity. They were on side from the start.”

Rhodes says exact usage from AHS varies depending on whether they have groups of students coming through or not, but the facility is also used by specialists, locums, and others.

Although only the second floor of Rotary House was originally going to be offered for use by AHS, Rhodes says the first floor has been leased to nurses, students, and others who are not as concerned with needing the higher level of security offered by the second floor.

“We made a decision early in the year that if the public wasn’t using the bottom then we would open that up for Alberta Health,” he says.

Leasing the first floor to AHS has been helping bring in more revenue.

Rhodes says the cancellation of airline passenger service to Peace River hasn’t seemed to have had an effect on AHS use of the facility so far, and most people seem to be finding alternate routes to get there.

The general public has been slower to stay at Rotary House. Rhodes says Facebook ads are being used to try to build more awareness that the facility is available.

Rotary House is meant to be used by the public as a place to stay in order to be close to the Peace River Hospital. It’s convenient for people who might have an early morning procedure at the hospital or appointment with a specialist.

It costs less money to stay at Rotary House than a conventional hotel.

Rotary House has had people from Fort McMurray, Fort Vermilion, Fort Macleod, High Prairie, Valleyview, and Edmonton stay over. Many of those from out of the area stayed at the facility because they had family in the Peace River hospital.

Rhodes says Rotary was in front of the town council in Manning in late 2019, and word had spread there thanks to a single guest.

“They all knew of an instance of a young woman there who had used the facility for a difficult pregnancy and had come back with glowing reports, and virtually the whole town knew about it,” Rhodes says.

Peace River’s deputy mayor Elaine Manzer says the facility is a draw to help attract physicians.

“It’s a very good project and continues to be that way,” she says.

Mayor Tom Tarpey says the late Dr. Dave Willox’s concept of Rotary House functioning as a training centre is “coming to fruition.”

Dr. Willox passed away on Feb. 18 after a battle with cancer.

The other project Willox helped spearhead, the new medical clinic next door to Rotary House, was supposed to be run by AHS. While eight doctors are already working out of the clinic, AHS has declined to move in.

The clinic was built through the cooperation of four different municipalities and is being run by Northern Sunrise County for a year with hopes AHS will still take over at a later date.

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