Councillor points to missing facts in National Post naturopath story

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By Nick Seebruch
Councillor points to missing facts in National Post naturopath story
Councillor Justin Towndale. Seaway News file photo.

UPDATE: Nov. 6, 2019 9 p.m.: The Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors (CAND) released a statement on The National Post‘s article. The statement reads in part: “The CAND applauds Cornwall city council’s innovative approach to improving its downtown area and supports its decision to help fund improvements to a building that will house a new naturopathic clinic. Naturopathic medicine plays an important role in well-rounded, comprehensive health care. It is complementary to the care provided by physicians as evidenced by the increasing collaboration and comanagement of patients by medical doctors (MDs) and naturopathic doctors (NDs). This decision will no doubt have a positive impact on the overall health and well-being of Cornwall residents.”

This story has also been updated to clarify that Dr. Michelle Cohen’s views on the matter quoted in The National Post came from another local media website.

UPDATE: Nov. 6, 2019 3:14 p.m.: In a response posted on the City of Cornwall website, Mayor Bernadette Clement expresses her disappointment in what she characterizes as inaccurate media reports.

“I am disappointed the media did not do their homework before publishing inaccuracies,” said Mayor Bernadette Clement. “Let me be clear – while the City of Cornwall encourages medical doctors to establish practices in our community, this project was approved through a completely separate program which aims to revitalize our downtown.”

CORNWALL, Ontario – The City of Cornwall recently made into the headlines of The National Post, but in a less than flattering way.

“‘Confused’ Ontario city spends $45K toward naturopathic clinic — because it has a shortage of doctors” reads the headline in The National Post.

It was recently reported that Cornwall City Council approved $45,000 request made to Cornwall’s Planning Advisory Committee (PAC) by Naturopath Veronique Theriault to assist her practice. In The National Post‘s story it is implied that the City approved this money for a naturopath despite Cornwall experiencing a shortage of doctors.

Cornwall City Councillor Justin Towndale pointed out that the article in The National Post is missing a few key points about the nature of the grant money.

“First of all, a bit of background. Ms. Theriault applied for a funding grant from a funding stream called Heart of the City. The purpose of this grant is to provide funding for building renovations to commercial properties in the downtown core of the city. It can cover drafting plans, building restoration, development fees, and tipping fees as a few examples,” reads a statement Towndale published on his social media. “This funding stream is specifically for building upgrades. Its purpose is to help augment the property in question in order to increase its assessment. This in turn results in higher tax revenue for the city as well as a visually pleasing property.”

Towndale’s full statement can be read on his Facebook page. The Councillor has stated that he has submitted his statement to The National Post as a letter to the editor.

As explained in the Councillor’s statement, the $45,000 that Theriault has requested would not be used to support her work as a naturopath directly, but instead used to renovate the property of a local business. Towndale also points out that Theriault stated to PAC that she intended to add a medical doctor and nurse practitioner to her office a fact not shared in The National Post article.

While The National Post story does state that the City of Cornwall does have a grant program in place to attract doctors to Cornwall, it does not state that the grant program to attract doctors is $50,000 a year for three years.

RELATED: CCHF asks for $50K a year for Adopt a Medical Resident program

The National Post story also does not point out that the Cornwall Community Hospital (CCH) has added 10 doctors to its Emergency Room department in the past year.

READ MORE: CCH welcomes 10 new doctors

It appears that this story was first brought to The National Posts attention after doctor and Queen’s professor Dr. Michelle Cohen shared a post from a local media website about Theirault’s presentation to PAC.

Dr. Cohen goes on to tweet that this support of Theirault’s naturopath clinic will not solve the shortage of doctors in the Cornwall area, something that Councillor Justin Towndale pointed out the grant money was never intended to do.

The belief of Dr. Cohen and The National Post that the City of Cornwall is trying to solve its doctor’s shortage through the support of a naturopath clinic seems to come from comments made by Councillor Glen Grant during the City’s most recent council meeting on Oct. 28.

“We have a medical recruitment program, and we are trying to attract more doctors,” Coun. Glen Grant is quoted in The National Post as saying. “We are trying to encourage this kind of development, especially downtown.”

In his letter, Councillor Towndale points out that this comment was based on Theirault’s stated intention to PAC to seek out a medical doctor and nurse practitioner.

“It was based on this comment by Ms. Theriault that Councillor Grant made his comments about attracting more doctors. I would suggest that the comments in the original article are taken entirely out of context, and so is the decision by the City of Cornwall,” Towndale states. “Facts matter. Ms. Theriault is receiving funding for her building. That’s all. And, she qualifies for this funding. To suggest that we are looking to replace medical doctors with naturopaths is patently false, and is the result of drawing an uninformed conclusion. In this era of fake news I would expect better. How disappointing.”

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