Poor prognosis

The economic woes battering Fort Frances may have overshadowed the chronic doctor shortage here of late but the future health of our community hinges just as much on resolving that situation—and fast.
The challenge of recruiting full-time doctors to practise here is nothing new, nor is it a problem unique to Fort Frances. However, the $1-million buyout of the doctors at the clinic in July of 2007, coupled with the new Family Health Team model created in 2006 and an upgraded incentives package, clearly hasn’t worked so far.
Not helping matters is what appears to be an old-fashioned “turf war” brewing—evidenced by the resolution council passed at a special meeting last Wednesday afternoon that stated roughly $67,000 in annual town funding is now “contingent upon a revision and enhancement of the current model of the doctor recruitment committee.”
Most troubling in all this is the veil of secrecy shrouding the issue. The doctor shortage is of vital public interest, and public money continues to be funnelled at the problem, yet very little information is being conveyed to residents. Council discussed the clinic behind closed doors prior to last Monday’s meeting, then met in-camera again last Wednesday to talk about doctor recruitment before emerging to pass the resolution, which offered no background and no specifics.
Just what really is going on here?
There is some promising news. Dr. Robert Algie is seeing his induction last week as president of the Ontario College of Family Physicians as an opportunity to “bring renewed interest to rural remote medicine and subsequently help the recruitment of new doctors to rural communities.” As Dr. Lorena Jenks put it, “. . . he’s definitely coming from a pro-rural family physician standpoint to lobby a little bit for rural care.”
But Dr. Algie also conceded his availability to his practice here will suffer as a result, which certainly could exacerbate our doctor shortage in the short-term.
Add to that the fact some of our doctors are nearing retirement and the prognosis becomes even poorer if our recruitment efforts fail.
Town council took the right step last week, but too many questions remain unanswered moving forward.