Thank you to the community for taking the time to attend the community forum that was held Wednesday, Oct. 12 in the auditorium at the Memorial Sports Centre.
It was great to see such wonderful support from a cross-section of the demographics represented in Fort Frances. Primary care is, and should be, a concern for every member of the community.
Unfortunately, primary care is in jeopardy due to a shortage of doctors in Fort Frances.
The members of the Fort Frances recruitment and retention committee are very aware of the situation, and the difficulty in recruiting and retaining physicians in Fort Frances and across the country.
We understand the current physician-owned business model at the Fort Frances Clinic is no longer working and that solutions are needed.
As noted by Dr. Nancy Naylor, “Upcoming physicians have no interest in running a business as part of their medical career. This is a definite disincentive for any new doctor coming to Fort Frances and I was told so by several [medical] residents.
“The days of a doctor-run clinic are a thing of the past.”
We are very appreciative of the efforts of the local physicians and the physicians across the district, providing not only primary care in the clinics but also hospital care such as emergency room coverage, anesthesia coverage, surgical services, obstetrical coverage, and in-patient and out-patient care.
Our local doctors also provide coverage at Rainycrest, the Fort Frances Jail, and the Northwestern Health Unit. The doctor shortage, therefore, will not only affect primary health care, but also hospital services, including surgery.
We understand that Family Health Teams are being promoted by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care as a viable model of primary health care delivery. A Family Health Team (FHT) would be made up of physicians and other associated health-care professionals, such as nurse practitioners, physiotherapists, registered nurses, etc.
Allowing the Group Health Association (GHA) to take over the management of the Fort Frances Clinic, although not a guaranteed cure for the physician shortage, is a step in the right direction. It not only allows the physicians to get out of the business management of the clinic, but it also means a start toward the establishment of a Family Health Team that will bring enhanced health care to their patients.
We do know that the current situation will make recruitment efforts next to impossible and, if left unresolved, may very well affect the retention of our current physicians.
Wayne Woods, CEO of Riverside Health Care Facilities, Inc., has stated that the hospital taking over the management and funding of the Fort Frances Clinic is not viable at the present time, as it would need a considerable amount of time and expense to acquire the necessary infrastructure that the Group Health Association can offer immediately.
He also stated that purchasing the assets is only a minor part of the solution, and managing and operating the clinic would require much more expertise and knowledge than Riverside currently has.
Riverside, however, will be very involved in the process to establish a Family Health Team and will partner with the Fort Frances Clinic on a delivery model.
The recruitment and retention committee believes that the local physicians know best about primary care. We support their endorsement and agreement on this decision to partner with the Sault Ste. Marie and District Group Health Association.
This solution will best serve the primary health care needs of the community.
The request to town council from the Group Health Association, supported by the physicians of the Fort Frances Clinic, is to provide financing to Group Health Association for the purchase of the Fort Frances Clinic Holdings Co., and to provide operating capital for a new community-based, not-for-profit company.
The actual cost to the town over 10-15 years would be the interest costs on the loan. The loan required is in the range of $1 million.
We believe that this long-term investment in the community will provide a return on investment that will mean better health care for everyone. We urge local residents to call their town councilors and ask them to support this request on Monday, Oct. 24.
Fort Frances Clinic
Editor’s note: Other members of the local physician recruitment and retention committee who signed this letter were Dr. R. Algie, Dr. J. Shack, Dr. M.E. Spencer, Wayne Woods, Elizabeth Clark, Teresa Hazel, John Harrison, Todd Hamilton, Mark McCaig, and Geoff Gillon.