Health care, education, and downtown businesses

How will massive growth affect these key areas of life in Kawartha Lakes?

By Kirk Winter

A sign announcing "Historic Downtown Lindsay" greets drivers approaching the town from the west. Kirk Winter looks at how a growing population in Lindsay will affect health care, doctor shortages, public education, and local businesses making their home downtown. Photo: Sienna Frost.

The Advocate has been exploring the explosive growth expected in Kawartha Lakes over the next 10 years. With Lindsay’s population set to almost double within a decade, we explore how health care and education are being affected, city-wide, and shine a spotlight on Lindsay’s downtown.

Health care

Almost every small city in Ontario has a well-respected publicly funded hospital that not only is one of the community’s major employers, but a lynch pin in attracting new people and new industry to the city.

Lindsay is no different than those communities, with Ross Memorial Hospital (RMH) providing quality medical care to people right across the old Victoria County, and now Kawartha Lakes since 1902.

RMH, unfortunately, is already finding its facility inadequate for the needs of the community, with wait times in the emergency room sometimes exceeding 12 hours. With a chronic shortage of family doctors in the city, the hospital and associated walk-in clinics have been overwhelmed providing the primary care that should be delivered by family doctors.

Ryan Young, communications officer for RMH, said that planning is in the works to meet the needs of a much larger community.

“Planning is well underway to expand RMH’s critical care capacity,” to meet such needs,” Young said. “The hospital’s 20-year masterplan has been submitted to the Ontario Ministry of Health for approval to proceed to the next planning stage.”

Young added that anticipated population growth helps inform the hospital’s master planning, along with their strategic planning and directions.

As part of the hospital’s strategic priorities, RMH has committed to collaborating and partnering with their Ontario Health Team and community partners to identify and address community needs.

Young told the Advocate that local MPP Laurie Scott “has been a strong advocate for our hospital and the healthcare services our community relies upon.”

Doctor shortages

The Kawartha Lakes Health Care Initiative (KLHCI), led by Cindy Snider and a group of volunteers, has the mandate of recruiting more family doctors to Kawartha Lakes. As the city grows, there will be additional pressure on this group to find the family doctors to handle Lindsay’s growth over the next 10 years.

Currently, the city is short 15-18 family doctors and about one-third of Kawartha Lakes is without a local family doctor.

Snider said that doctor recruiting is still “very competitive.”

“We are seeing an increase in family doctors reaching out directly regarding opportunities. It is also beneficial (post-pandemic) that we have been able to return to in-person recruitment.”

Doctor recruitment is directly impacted by population growth. File photo.

When asked how many family doctors will need to be recruited in the coming years, Snider said each new family doctor looks to have a practice of approximately 1,000 patients.

“It is not easy to exactly predict how many doctors will be needed…I expect, however, that the number will remain high as the population grows.”

Snider believes that a larger, more diverse Lindsay might make doctor recruitment easier, which could possibly make it more difficult to recruit in more rural communities like Woodville, Bobcaygeon and Fenelon Falls.

She recognizes that “the medical profession is very diverse” and if more retail, restaurant, and other services arrive in Lindsay, the community will “be recognized” as being more urban and less rural, attracting family doctors before Kawartha Lakes’ smaller population centres can fill their vacancies.

Public education

Tim Ellis, superintendent of business services for the Trillium Lakelands District School Board (TLDSB), understands that big growth is coming to the city, and the board is trying to be proactive.

He says the board is doing a boundary review for Lindsay-area schools to balance school enrollment and capacity, and “minimize transportation and maximize walk zones.”

“The board will be looking for opportunities for additions or new buildings in the area through the ministry capital priorities process.”

To help the board determine whether the new homes being built in Lindsay will be occupied by retirees or families with children, the board has hired Watson and Associates Economists Ltd. to assist with updated projections to be taken into consideration during the boundary review process.

Ellis added that a new school takes three to five years to build, and that the board is expected to use up available space within our current buildings before it is granted approval for any new construction projects.

When asked if the board still has developable land on Logie Street, near Lindsay’s expected population explosion, Ellis confirmed that fact but reminded the Advocate that any development is subject to the ministry’s capital priorities process.

Local real estate agents have gone public with their frustrations regarding nebulous school boundaries and the impact on closing deals in neighborhoods currently under construction.

One veteran agent, who asked for anonymity because she does not officially speak for her bosses’ brokerage said, “The first thing people see when entering a new sub-division are those huge board placards saying that despite the homes being in the traditional catchment of one school, there is no guarantee that children moving to the sub-division will go there. Next to good internet conductivity, the next most commonly asked question is which school will my kids be going to, and there is a very short list of in-town schools most want their children attending. The board is really missing the boat on this issue, dragging their feet like they are.”

The same agent also said that if parents don’t get the schools of their choice, they are quite prepared to switch their children to French Immersion at Leslie Frost. That school is already groaning under the pressure of sky-rocketing enrollment and the ongoing challenge of finding qualified staff. The separate school system has surplus capacity at the moment and some parents will make the decision to send their kids there, according to the agent.

Wesley Found wants the downtown to be “a destination.” Photo: Sienna Frost.

Lindsay Downtown Business Improvement Association

Wesley Found is president of the Lindsay Downtown Business Improvement Association (LDBIA), which represents more than 160 businesses in Lindsay’s downtown core.

Found believes the mandate of the LDBIA “is to foster a vibrant, vital and resilient downtown.”

“The LDBIA has a vision (for the future) but our role must be to advocate, brand and promote the downtown. If downtown Lindsay is viewed collectively as an industry or industry area, we have no doubt that we would be one of the largest employers and biggest contributors to income generated in the city.”

Found wants the downtown to be “a destination.”

“Our valued members all have an offering,” Found said, “and collectively the downtown, above all else, offers an experience. The combination of heritage, diverse shops and beautiful settings gives a quaintness that cannot be replicated. This is something I think many newcomers are moving to our community for and which our downtown is uniquely positioned to provide.”

Found told the Advocate that as the town expands, current estimates by the city regarding necessary parking capacity in the downtown core “need to be hastened significantly.”

When asked if the LDBIA is concerned about the potential for significant commercial development in outlying areas of Lindsay, such as that proposed by Flato Developments on Highway 36, Found said the LDBIA “believes malls and other shopping districts are complimentary to the Lindsay downtown and are not in the same market.”

Found said that malls lack “the quaint experience component where people can walk the beautiful historic streets” offered by Lindsay’s downtown.

“I think many of Lindsay’s new residents are moving away from urban centres in part to separate (themselves) from a more transactional community to a more immersive one. Downtown Lindsay embodies that and is uniquely positioned to provide (that immersive experience).”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.