Coalition ignored

Dear sir:
Fort Frances and district residents have two crises that are imminent. Both involve the health care of the residents of the Rainy River District.
One clearly is a priority—the recruitment and retention of doctors managed under some kind of team health concept or group health association!
A Sault Ste. Marie Group Health Association has entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Town of Fort Frances, dated July 15, to purchase the clinic facility and manage it under a model similar to the one they have structured in Sault Ste. Marie. Furthermore, the town is providing a 15-year amortized $1-million interest-free loan to enhance this process.
All of this has taken place with little chance to the public to have input on the destiny of their health care services.
Look at the time lapse of letting the public know anything about the town moving ahead with the GHA. Talks apparently were underway since July 15 or sooner, and the first opportunity the public had to have any input was the Oct. 12 public meeting, which, was an information meeting.
The Coalition for Informed Health Care advocates that before identifying and establishing a proper model for the provision and delivery of health care services for district residents, more public input is necessary.
District taxpayers have not been given proper due process to become informed about their health care needs–despite being promised input. Clearly, there is some confusion within council as to whether we were promised public input. This can easily be ascertained from the blame game played out in the newspaper, as to whether or not mayor and the council made such a promise.
Regardless of council’s waffling on whether a promise was made for public input or not, the proper collective elected responsibility must be to give the citizens their input on an issue of such huge importance to all district residents. Is the town rushing to judgement to give the Sault Ste. Marie Group Health Association the mandate to manage and organize our health care?
Without full disclosure to the information as it pertains to these “particular health crisis,” the citizens are not in a position to make prudent decisions regarding their health care. At this point, most citizens have not been informed–and are not even sure what is going on with this health care fiasco!
Yet, many citizens appear outraged at council’s unwillingness to allow public input.
Councillor Wiedenhoeft feels delaying the process and waiting 30 or 60 days would be too long. Is it? I can’t say for certain if it is or not, but I sense that some time is needed to be sure we make the right decision based on as much information as we can gather as it relates to group health care management.
Coun. Wiedenhoeft articulated very nicely the need to press forward, not to procrastinate, and to seize the opportunity to go with the Sault Ste. Marie GHA and its excellent panacea for health care management. No one disputes the urgency of our pending crisis, but we need time for informed public input and a chance to explore all alternatives.
Coun. Wiedenhoeft is privileged; he based his decision on information the public was not privy to, time to do so, and furthermore, he had the opportunity to voice his decision.
I don’t believe most citizens feel the current way the clinic has been owned, run, and maintained by doctors is going to continue forever. Joe Public knows change is needed; it’s the kind of change–and how it’s achieved–that is at the root of their concern.
The public is well aware of how good we had it for so long with the current clinic and the doctors that have served us so well. It’s paramount to state that our local doctors and the clinic have given years of excellent health care to the citizens of the Rainy River District.
The doctors have collectively been passionate, compassionate, and professional in their delivery of health care. Doctors deserve the pecuniary rewards of their clinic shares at the very least, and deserve better working conditions. Prospective doctors considering Fort Frances as the place to practice medicine need some very attractive draws here beside the standard community amenities which Fort Frances is richly blessed with.
These are all indisputable facts and most citizens are cognizant of these facts and would articulate their feelings given the chance. Give us a bit more credit, councillor.
Coun. Wiedenhoeft, in his letter to the editor dated Nov. 16, is clearly in favour of the Sault Ste. Marie GHA as our health care team and is somewhat praise-worthy of their credentials. He obviously is privy to information about their history and current successes. Most citizens don’t know enough about the Sault Ste. Marie GHA to make an informed opinion/decision about their competence as a membership-based health care organization.
One fact remains abundantly clear with the Sault Ste. Marie GHA–their model for group health promotes rostering. My background on rostering is limited, but I do believe rostering is a heartbeat away from the American system of health care, which, in essence, can be perceived as a movement toward privatization of health care services.
Is this the decision the province is moving toward? Did this community not already beat the drums of defiance and convincingly defeat the CHO that was promoted here several years ago?
The health care provided to the residents of Fort Frances and the surrounding district is the single biggest crisis we, as a collective community, have to face. Yet, mayor and council have yet again invited controversy and ignored the wishes of the public.
To be accurate, the mayor and one councillor voted against the original resolution, dated Oct. 24, to give the Sault Ste. Marie GHA the mandate to buy the clinic and to facilitate a process to manage and organize our health care needs. However, a council meeting on Monday, Nov. 14, the mayor and council, heard a very articulate and passionate petition plea from Allan Bedard to rescind or reconsider the original resolution to allow time for more public input.
A petition bearing some 1,800 signatures appeared to have little impact on the single-minded thinking of some of our elected representatives.
Given more time, the petition could have been much larger, but in this “rush to judgement” the window of opportunity to garner petition signatures was small.
Coun. Albanese moved to reconsider the original resolution, passed at the Oct. 24 meeting, yet no other councillor stepped up to the plate to show their “public representative spirit.” The motion to reconsider was defeated. (It’s understood that the mayor, as the chair of the meeting, could not second the motion).
The Coalition for Informed Health Care has no quarrel with the doctors or mayor and council. It recognizes the need to get the best health care plan for the residents of the Rainy River District, managed in the best way possible, with reasonable public input.
The mayor and council, in not recognizing the petition and the motion to reconsider the original resolution, have incited the emotions of a vast number of residents in town and the surrounding district. The outlying districts have a vested interest in our local health care crisis because it’s their crisis, as well.
These crisis definitely impact upon our country neighbours; they are stakeholders in the overall health care needs of Rainy River District residents.
Fort Frances’ second crisis is the immediate need for a new clinic facility! A local businessman, Kim Metke, who has a passion for the welfare of this community and who also is a stakeholder in providing quality community health care, recently was denied the opportunity to buy the clinic.
Mr. Metke’s vision was to move the motion for a new state-of-the-art clinic facility forward and to enhance our community health care. A new clinic is velcroed to the need to have at some point, our community leaders interested in health care, to meet and discuss various matters of interest relating to the provision and delivery of heath care services to and for the benefit of the Town of Fort Frances, its residents, and the surrounding area.
The recruitment and retention of an adequate number of physicians to live and work in the Town of Fort Frances, for its inhabitants and the surrounding area, also would be part and parcel of the overall health care goal and vision. These goals are all part of a collective vision for health care that I’m sure are shared by all district residents.
As far as the present clinic goes, could it ever be renovated with what I guess would be of potpourri of various code anomalies? Only our building inspector could assess that. Renovated seems like a tall order; bull-dozed into the ground and a new building is likely the way to go.
Alternatives, yes there are, like housing a new clinic in the hospital managed by the hospital management team or some managerial organization. Parking and all the health care amenities are already there, and a pharmacy easily could be incorporated as part of the health care services.
I have since heard that the hospital is not interested in this alternative. Is this fact or fiction?
This option creates a positive spin-off for the library. The current library remains a Carnegie building possibly qualifying for some grant money, and if a new library is needed, it could possibly be built on the current clinic site.
The town is perceived as having a vision and a plan. Perhaps this, and other viable alternatives could be explored for the building of a new clinic once the public and community leaders consult and brainstorm ideas.
It appears that the mayor and council want another adversarial relationship with town and district residents. All we asked for was to be given some window of opportunity to become informed and to be a part of the decision-making process in regards to our health care. We were denied that right!
It’s still not too late to do the right thing and allow for informed public input and, in a spirit of camaraderie and collegiality, to work together for one common goal–the best health care system managed in the best possible way in a new state of the art clinic.
Larry Patrick
Coalition for
Health Care