Trust our physicians

Dear editor:
Our physicians are our trusted and most knowledgeable experts on health care. Their recommendation, choice, and final decision is to work with Group Health.
Coun. Albanese continues to state that the town is giving $1 million to Sault Ste. Marie and jobs will go out of town. He is totally incorrect. It is an interest-free loan up to $1 million to purchase the Fort Frances Clinic company and set up our own Group Health Fort Frances—a local, not-for-profit entity that will own and manage the clinic.
Group Health’s employees in Sault Ste. Marie and the clinic employees are unionized. Our physicians have stated they value their employees and they are not being replaced.
For the record, I am not hiring employees and managing the Fort Frances Clinic as a private business venture. This information is complete and utter nonsense.
The cost is $24,000 per year for 15 years. The $1 million will be paid back to the town. The town contributes $67,000 per year into a capital fund with Riverside. If Riverside agrees to reduce this amount to $43,000, it will cost the town nothing.
Mr. Bedard and NAG state they support our group of physicians. Then why not trust our physicians’ judgment and support their decision? Our physicians selected Group Health. If they were interested in other options, it would have been brought forward.
Two of our physicians provided information and answered many questions at the Oct. 12 public meeting. Group Health detailed how we will have our own Group Health Fort Frances.
Mayor Dan Onichuk stated there would be more public meetings. He also mentioned that there were other options and other proposals being considered. Not sure why. It was not our physicians’ position. They made their choice.
And it was not the town’s position. Mr. Onichuk made the statement on his own behalf.
The physicians have the knowledge, expertise, qualifications, and experience to identify the best option—and they have. It was a not a knee-jerk reaction or rough decision. I know it came after much research, discussion, and more than one or two restless nights for our physicians.
The town’s involvement is financing—not offering, choosing, or recommending options.
Some say the clinic building is old and needs to be replaced. Build a medical strip mall, or a new building. I have heard a lot of ideas and they certainly are options. Some viable, some more expensive and time-consuming than others, but good, thoughtful ideas from people that care.
But none of these were endorsed, presented, and recommended to the town by our physicians. The physicians selected Group Health based on their professional expertise and judgment.
Group Health’s opinion on the building is yes, its dated, but completely serviceable, fully-equipped, and in good shape.
The new not-for-profit Group Health Fort Frances will aid in the recruitment and retention of physicians by providing reasonable and attractive rent for physicians. Each physician will pay rent to Group Health Fort Frances, along with the pharmacy, lab, and any other service providers on site.
That is the source of revenue that will pay the loan. There will be no “buy-in” or business ownership for present or new physicians.
Is it a guarantee we will get more physicians or keep the ones we have? No. However, it is the opinion of our professionals, our physicians, that we will at least be in a position to be considered. We’re too big to qualify for physician subsidies (like Emo, Atikokan, and Rainy River) and too small to qualify for subsidies that larger centers receive.
The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care sees Family Health Teams as the solution. Obtaining Family Health Team status will be a challenge. It involves three main steps. Family Health Group is step one.
The qualifying process for this designation began last year. You may have seen the posters at the clinic. There is a registration process. If you are not registered with our Family Health Group, you still will receive health care (we live in Canada, not the United States).
Signing up with your Family Health Group simply makes it easier for the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care to pay the physicians—and it shows the ministry our community wants to work together.
Next will be Family Health Network, with its qualification requirements, after that a Family Health Team.
The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care wants Family Health Teams. It also wants communities to prove they can work together. Currently, there are no Family Health Teams in Ontario and there are 150 spots for Family Health Team approval.
We want to be one of the 150.
Here is another reason why the physicians chose Group Health and why it is so important to the Family Health Team. Guess where the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care got the idea for Family Health Teams? From the Group Health Association.
Group Health’s model has been in place for more than 40 years—and it works. The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care believes the Group Health’s model is the future of primary health care, so much so that it adopted it as their own.
Our physicians see the future of primary health care in Fort Frances. It will require a stable group of physicians supported by allied health care professionals, reasonable rent and overhead costs, and community support. That is a Family Health Team.
Physicians are considering leaving. What is attractive about 80-100 hour work weeks, 24 hour on call two or three days a week, no family time, no personal time, no community support? However, they have chosen an option that may give them some relief, keep them here, and attract others.
Now, more than ever, they need our support.
Physicians interested in coming will contact our local physicians and ask this one question: Is Fort Frances a good place to live and practise medicine? I hope the answer is yes.
Coun. Todd Hamilton
Fort Frances, Ont.