Repurposing empty commercial retail is simply a smart update in Ontario. In Toronto, many of us noticed closures of stores and retail in hot spot locations like the Danforth, the Beaches, and even in the central downtown core.

We wondered what would happen to local communities as younger consumers continued to prefer online shopping. In part, my own mental health and wellness practice aimed to keep professional health services local and easily accessible for people choosing private options.

Of course, having no idea that soon after the ink dried on my commercial lease agreement the city would be under Covid lockdown, my timing for offering in-person counselling and wellness service options proved to be unwise.

Nevertheless, the local East Toronto community was extremely supportive and explored virtual services offered through my small business. Fortunately, my company continues to thrive. In fact, leasing local unused commercial real estate is most welcome to landlords. Professional health services are clean, less noisy, and risky relative to other businesses in Toronto.

The current decision to support day surgeries, like my own endoscopy in office towers really works well. In truth, these services are already happening.

Patients seen in professional sites in local communities will decrease pressures on hospital staff by reducing the volume of daily traffic in larger institutions. It will also reduce everyone’s risk to spreading viral infections and diseases by diverting people to locations that have fewer extremely ill patients on-site.

The view that Smart Innovation in healthcare is code for privatization smacks of conspiratorial rhetoric that has been fueling fear in this province for decades. Where public dollars are used to support the decentralization of services in hospitals by allowing a range of care to be provided locally is just smart.

I envision our city lined with easily accessible professional offices in lieu of retail shops offering health, legal, and medical services. The call to convert some retail space into affordable housing is also a smart idea!

Toronto is an amazing city that lifers like me hope to keep vital and healthy. Jumping at the opportunity to offer private regulated mental healthcare services once enacted under the Psychotherapy Act was also a smart next step for someone with my tenure in the field. I can make work-life truly balanced.

Certainly, many clinicians provide virtual care exclusively without any need for traditional office space. Some of my clients appreciate having the option to meet in person or online. Deciding to retain my lease beyond the current contract will be based on many factors as costs to run my business have risen in all areas.

Looking forward to the future!

Lisa Romano-Dwyer, Owner

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