Responding to the demands of an aging population wanting to stay in their homes for longer, Sunset Medical Supply has opened its doors here in Fort Frances.
“We’re certainly excited about this going forward,” said local pharmacist Kim Metke, owner of Pharmasave on Scott Street where Sunset Medical Supply has set up shop.
“It is something that I’ve thought about for a long time,” he noted. “It’s satisfying to see it come to fruition finally.
“I think we’re going to be able to do a very good job for people.”
“To provide [people] with independence and dignity—that’s really what we’re all about,” stressed Gary Taylor, who was brought on board as Sunset Medical Supply’s manager and worked to launch the business with Metke.
There’s a “big list” of products which Sunset Medical Supply will be offering, said Taylor, including mobility products such as canes, walkers, wheelchairs, powered wheelchairs, scooters, braces, lift chairs, adjustable beds, or items that can be installed in the bathroom to improve safety.
They’ll also be selling items known as “aids for daily living,” explained Taylor, such as reachers, long-handled shoehorns, long-handled sponges, home-making aids, and more.
“You should see some people’s faces once they get some of the stuff in place. It’s like ‘Wow,’” he noted.
This is especially true when it comes to family members, such as people who live away from the area and only come back to visit their parents for a couple of weeks of the year and become concerned as their parents are aging.
“So, they start looking at the option of, say, Rainycrest or trying to get them into these senior apartments, which there’s a waiting list of who knows how long for,” he remarked.
Instead, home health-care items can help make homes safer so people can stay in them longer, he reasoned.
Part of this includes working with agencies such as the Community Care Access Centre, as well as health professionals like occupational therapists and physiotherapists to determine what products are best suited to a person’s needs, Taylor explained.
“They’re making the recommendations for different types of equipment. We’re basically there to determine the specific make and model which best suits their need,” he added, noting this includes final fitting, maintenance, or providing home assessments.
The new business also is an authorized vendor for those government programs which provide funding for equipment, including the Assisted Devices Program (ADP), Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA), and Non-Insured Health Benefits (NIHB) for First Nations’ groups, noted Taylor, as well as working with people’s private insurance agencies to assist them with costs.
The growing demand for this service stems from the area’s demographics and aging population, he added.
“Everybody knows with the ‘baby-boomer’ population growth, yes there’s definitely a need,” he remarked, noting that based on available statistics, Rainy River District actually has a larger aging population, percentage-wise, than anywhere else in Ontario.
“If you look at the projections for prescription services, and you look at the projections for health care, they look like a 747 going off,” agreed Metke.
“Basically, until the ‘boomers’ start to leave the picture entirely, the demand is just going to go through the roof.”
At the same time, there’s “no way that we can afford the health care system” if the government doesn’t do a lot to keep people in their own homes for as long as possible, added Metke.
“It’s kind of showing cracks already, and basically if you throw the extra burden on it, we’re not going to have enough facilities, etc., etc., etc.,” he warned.
“We have to expand the services that keep people in their own homes for independent living, and that’s what the people want.”
While originally there were plans to house Sunset Medical Supply at a separate location, Metke and Taylor ultimately opted to have the business brought under the same roof as Pharmasave.
“We wanted to basically provide the customers with 100 percent pharmacy, drug store, [and] home health care under one roof,” said Taylor, noting the businesses will complement each other.
Metke said that moving into the home health-care field also is a direction the national Pharmasave
board is heading, and encouraging its members to do so, as well.
“It’s just another health-care service that we would like to provide people with,” he said of the local expansion.
“With a lot of our patients, we already have a relationship built up,” he reasoned.
Those who dropped by Pharmasave over the past months will have seen a transformation as new offices and space has been built for Sunset Medical Supplies.
Eventually, there also will be an entranceway on the west side of the store where the parking lot is, noted Taylor, which will make both Sunset Medical Supplies and Pharmasave more accessible to clients, especially those using canes, walkers, or wheelchairs, so they don’t have to park and walk very far.
As for the future, Metke said there is the potential to expand to Dryden, where he operates another Pharmasave.
“I think if anything, [Dryden’s potential market] is probably bigger than Fort Frances,” he noted. “It’s just that we had Gary’s expertise here and it seemed more prudent to begin it down here.
“So, it’s kind of a walk before you run.”
Metke said he also has started talking to potential partners in other centres in Northwestern Ontario to expand the business.
Sunset Medical Supplies will be open the same hours as Pharmasave, with the small “off the counter” carry-out items available for purchase during all the regular Pharmasave hours, noting that staff are being trained in some aspects of.
For specific specialty rehabilitation products and items which require consultations, Taylor and mobility consultant Ramiro Matias will be available weekdays from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., as well as by appointment as needed after-hours and on weekends.