No time to waver

Dear editor:
Recently, there have been several articles written in the Times regarding the Family Health Team concept. Some of these articles have been positive and some negative, and some have cited Riverside Health Care Facilities, Inc. as being involved on the periphery.
Some clarification is in order regarding the hospital’s involvement in the delivery of health care. First, we are a hospital and the physicians that use our facilities to deliver services are not our employees. They are independent practitioners who apply to the organization for privileges.
In exchange for those privileges, the physicians are expected to adhere to our rules, provide coverage, and help us to govern our hospitals with their input.
Recently, we have lost the services of many general practitioners from the community. The doctors have gone on to serve in other areas for multiple reasons. Right now, we need four-five GPs, and preferably those that offer anesthesia and obstetrical coverage.
The long line-ups in Emergency, along with the long waiting list to get an appointment at the clinic, indicate we are a community that is facing a crisis.
We are not alone. The global picture for the entire health care system demonstrates the system is short of not only doctors, but also nurses and other allied health care providers.
Many communities, through our provincial government, are working toward a concept called Family Health Teams. In this concept, patients are rostered, which means they are members of a group that have access to certain physicians or group of physicians.
It does not mean that if they are not members, they will be denied access, which is not how our system is designed.
The physicians are paid, in part, according to the number of people they have on their roster. It is no longer piecework, or getting paid according to how many people they can see in one day.
The advantages are that the physician can spend longer with the patient and can add other providers to their team that will help them deliver needed health care services.
Fort Frances and the surrounding area have been well-served in the past with a model that has been built and owned by doctors. That model no longer will work in today’s environment.
Today’s doctors do not want to, and will not, invest in a clinic. They want to come to a community, provide their service, and invest in the community, not in a clinic.
Potential recruits have stated that until the model changes, they are not interested in coming here.
This is a highly-competitive market. Several towns are offering incentives of more than $100,000 to try and get doctors to their area. The laws of supply and demand, which are the most basic of all economic theories, are in full operation.
In order for our community to be well-served, we must be competitive and offer at least what other communities are offering, a stable working environment, and a model that has been adopted throughout Ontario.
Is a Family Health Team the answer? Only time will tell. But the present model of a physician-owned clinic is not the answer.
Potential recruits are like everyone else: they read negative articles in the media and will not entertain coming to an area where they perceive they will not be welcomed.
At this time, Riverside has made a commitment to help out as much as possible, but we are not in a position to redevelop our hospital and have a clinic within it.
Our Recruitment and Retention Committee, with our partners, is working diligently to entice new recruits but as stated previously, we are in a highly-competitive market.
This community has a history of stepping up to the plate and getting the job done. Now is not the time for wavering.
Wayne Woods
Riverside Health
Care Facilities, Inc.