New Medical Clinic Layout   


Medical Clinic Layout Port  Elgin

As we covered in a prior article, the Council on March 3rd, 2008 approved the funds required for the 10 week renovation of the former Fresh Mart site in Port Elgin.  As we've discussed in another article Staff and Council were 'under the gun' on this project and there is a lot of trust involved (see more) ... hence the 10 week schedule.

We will examine here some issues that puzzle us and maybe others.  First the facts:


  • The Town purchased the building which was in the past occupied by a grocery store.  We think the cost was around $400,000 and is not included in the projected renovation costs outlined below.
  • The building has good parking.
  • It has  9,916 square feet of space as it stands now.
  • The remaining funds from the 2007 Budget for the Medical Clinic are $1,180,000.
  • Funding for this will be supplied by long term debt and any lease payments from the doctors (unknown at this time by the Saugeen Times)
  • The Clinic will be renovated outside totally per the Staff's recommendation.
  • The contract has been approved for the 10 week renovation for $962,700 on Monday March 3rd, 2008
  • The plan includes 1221 square feet of common area that will be pro-rated over the doctors (4 anticipated and planned for at this time)
  • 5807 square feet will be constructed with 4019 feet left for future medical expansion.

 General Comments:

  • It appears that the Town made a good purchase of the land and building.  It is located within walking distance of the core community of Port  Elgin
  • There is good parking and safe access to the site either on foot, bike or car.
  • The building appears sound.  By the quotes of the 3 bidders and the Staff Report, there should  be no surprises.  It's a simple shell of a building.
  • The proposed layout is unusual.  As the staff points out it was requested by the doctors.  Because Staff chose to highlight that in their report, they 'may' not agree totally with the layout.
  • The time schedule is unusual too?  With a 10 week schedule and $962,700 to be expended, the Town is spending at the rate of $96,270 per week.  If we guess at a profit margin of let's says 25% for the contractor, then the the general contractor will spend about $72,000 a week on labour and material.  Let's suppose half is labour.  If that is true and on average the trades people are making $1000 per week, burdened rate with overtime, then expect to see about 36 people scrambling around the site on a 7 day schedule with an ebb and flow. These figures can be off, but it's always good to break them down in this way to get a 'feel" for what is going on with a construction project.  This has all the indications of a purposeful quest for speed.
  • It is our guess that the cost of the job could come down with a schedule stretched to let's say  July 1st instead of the 10 weeks dictated by an unstated reason (probably doctor requests, which seem to have a lot of weight).  Maybe somebody looked at this and the cost of temporary space and it's better to push this way.  The Council did not question it in open debate except for Thead Seaman, an experienced contractor, who wanted a chance to look at it.  Doug Freiberger, who has a contracting background looked a bit puzzled too.

The Layout

We guess a person gets used to being a patient, so lets start with that.  The patient needs a waiting room and if possible an area set aside for really sick people.  Patients are perfectly happy to go to a common receptionist and sign in for their doctor or dentist.  They usually have a question or two for a receptionist and after the appointment they are given some idea of their next appointment.

(next column)


It all of a sudden dawned on us that, here we are going into this detail on a big expenditure of funds.  This can be done by two experts at least on the Town Council, if they had time to study the layouts and expenditures.  Also, the Town Engineer, Dave Burnside has a lot of experience.  Time again is the enemy. 

We remember sitting in on  the public meetings about the High Street Bathroom chaired by Mike Myatt. This was a contentious issue, but at least there was time for reflection.  

He did a great job on that with artist's sketches, plan view blue prints and everything.  Not many people really looked at the engineering drawings, but they were there for viewing. 

The citizens haggled about sight lines and paint colours, shrubs and all sorts of things.  Mike handled everything well and the tiny building is an asset replacing a Port-A-John..

We are sure the staff would have their own ideas about the medical building layout, if they had a chance (the mysterious deadline looms again).  We know that the Town Manager Ron Brown has spent a lot of time on the overall aspects of getting the building and working with the recruitment people over the last year.

Reception Areas:

In the proposed layout there are 4 distinct reception areas.  We think the doctors must fear the sharing and training of a single receptionist.  They don't study that in medical school. Who would hire and fire and who would replace the receptionist on vacations and sick days?  Still it seems like a place for improvement.

Just think if they add 3 more doctors with the same plan for a total of 7.  Will this model work? We bet they will have to redesign the interior.  If we had 7 doctors and each had a few staff, then we'd have no more than 25 people.  The majority of the people will be patients waiting, so why not make a common area?

It's been our experience that a good receptionist is worth their weight in gold.  They can really inform people.  Each doctor will have an assistant or two and they are usually busy moving around, so the immediate reception of the patient is not always prompt and efficient.

If the four or seven doctors were partners in an engineering firm, you can bet they'd have a single receptionist.  They are not partners, however, but appear to be if you dropped in from Mars.


Looks like quite a few bathrooms, but they are distributed throughout the 5807 square feet.  As of now there are 8 of them.  It appears that some other layout might be better for the mechanicals and the future development.  Locating them more toward the middle of the building would help. Spreading them out seems to be less than optimal.  It appears that the entire design is skewed by the doctor's request to have at this time 4 separate entities, so the designer cookie cut out four areas in a rectangular building.


The Saugeen Times cannot comment on the space occupied by records.  It's hard to tell from the rudimentary plan presented to Council.  How these are accessed and how handy are they to the doctors is important.  Some of this is governed by law.  It will change dramatically over the next few years when more and more records will be online.


We discussed the plan with Archie Gillies who was the Building Chairperson for the Southampton Medical Clinic.  Archie said "We used the same architectural firm G.M Diemart and they were very good.  This plan surprises me."  Archie went on to say that he was also surprised that nobody called him and asked what he had learned from his experience.

He went on to relate that his daughter is a doctor and he's had a lot of experience with public buildings, both in the KW area and in the far north where he was economic director for the Territories.  He has made a special study of medical clinics over time and has visited many of them.

It will turn out well for the medical needs of the area, it's just a puzzling design.... stay tuned.