Like many residents of Fort Frances, I have been following the saga of our deteriorating clinic and dwindling supply of physicians with great interest. Since I began practice as a pharmacist in town, I have witnessed the loss of five physicians, with the gain of just Dr. Shack.
Our already overworked doctors have been burdened with an ever-increasing workload as our population ages and physicians move away.
A decline in our ability to provide quality primary health-care services in this community is inevitable without significant changes to the practice model to both ease the administrative tasks placed on our physicians and decrease their workload.
The Family Health Team model of practice is clearly the future of primary health care in Canada. I have had the opportunity to participate in several initiatives aimed at primary care reform, and support for this model is overwhelming from professional groups of physicians, pharmacists, nurses, dietitians, physiotherapists, psychologists, and other allied health-care professionals.
Implemented properly, this model will allow each profession to handle the aspect of care that reflects their training and scope of practice, and should alleviate the pressure on physicians by allowing them to focus on their areas of expertise.
I have met several members of the Sault Ste. Marie Group Health Centre in the past, and agree their model of care approaches the ideal situation of interdisciplinary collaboration in primary health care.
There is no doubt that, as a community, we will benefit in a positive way from their support and guidance through this process.
I also believe having this type of practice model in place will be an asset in the recruitment of physicians, as well as other health-care professionals to this community.
I do have serious problems with the actions of our town council on this matter, however. I didn’t know it was a part of our council’s mandate to provide loans for the purchase of private businesses.
Before committing $1 million of public funds to this project, council should have, at the very least, determined what—exactly—they were committing to and who exactly would be receiving the funds.
It also would have been prudent to have explored all of the options presented and only move forward when it was determined that this was, in fact, the only option available.
Instead, these councillors attended a meeting with their minds already made up, and voted to approve a poorly-prepared and convoluted resolution to provide $1 million taxpayer dollars to a charity in Sault Ste. Marie.
While Coun. Hamilton may believe so strongly that he has come up with the perfect resolution that he is not even open to amendments to repair the gross inaccuracies present, this is still a democracy, council is still dealing with taxpayers’ money, and all stakeholders in this issue deserve to be heard.
While this resolution eventually may have been adopted in the end, the vote should never have been held until all interested parties had been given the opportunity to submit proposals, and valid reasons for rejecting these proposals were given by the Fort Frances Clinic Corp.
In my opinion, the only valid reason would be because the proposal would have resulted in a lower standard of care provided to the citizens of Fort Frances and district. Yet the letter of intent from Mr. Metke clearly indicated he was seeking to provide the same model of practice and the same management structure provided in the GHA proposal, as well as invest in a new clinic facility.
It could be argued the town would benefit from a new medical clinic by increasing the attractiveness of Fort Frances as a practice site, providing a more comfortable patient experience that the current building can provide, and providing opportunities for expansion to enhance the interdisciplinary collaboration between all health-care professionals in this community.
In fact, a higher level of care may be provided for patients through some of the alternative proposals rather than the one town council pushed through at its meeting last Monday night (Oct. 24).
During that meeting, town council voted to approve a resolution to provide a $1 million interest-free loan without giving other individuals an opportunity to present credible alternatives, and without providing or demanding a valid explanation as to why this is, as the resolution says, the “only” prudent alternative.
The citizens of this town are at least entitled to an explanation.
In the meantime, I look forward to working with our group of physicians in providing quality care, and am excited by the opportunities that increased collaboration through a Family Health Team may provide in the future.