Mayor, councillor voted against deal

While the town will go ahead and provide up to $1 million in financing to buy out the doctors’ shares of the Fort Frances Clinic following a 5-2 vote Monday night, Coun. John Albanese and Mayor Dan Onichuk stand fast that it was a hasty—if not wrong—move.
“There is a gentleman in the Town of Fort Frances [Kim Metke] that had a proposal in front of the doctors,” Coun. Albanese said during an interview Tuesday.
“He was going to hire the GHC people. They were going to do what the doctors wanted them to do.
“The Town of Fort Frances was going to save themselves a pile of money,” he added. “[Metke] was going to refurbish the clinic at no expense to the Town of Fort Frances. And I don’t see any problem with that.”
Coun. Albanese also said he felt not enough information has been provided regarding the GHA-centered plans and the purchase of the clinic.
“What are they going to do with it? How is it going to function? I haven’t seen any proposal,” he remarked. “The only proposal is the resolution saying we have to give them up to a million dollars to buy the shares of the doctors.
“Are they going to come back to us and ask us for another million dollars down the road, saying they’ve run out of money?” Coun. Albanese wondered.
“I’d like to have seen at least one more public meeting, with some of the figures and answers to questions, like why did they [the doctors] refuse Mr. Metke.
“Maybe there’s somebody else out there that would like to work with Mr. Metke and the doctors to do something?” added Coun. Albanese. “Now the options are very limited unless some of the members of council decide to repeal the resolution.
“But that’s going to be hard to do.”
Coun. Albanese noted that Dr. Robert Algie had said on Monday night the resolution had to be passed as soon as possible in order for the doctors and GHA to move forward with an application to the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care for a Family Health Team prior to the end of this fiscal year.
But Coun. Albanese said deferring the resolution for two weeks or a month—both for Metke to get together a proper business proposal and to hold a public meeting with more information for the citizens—was reasonable.
“They could have waited another 30 days, and still had a month to put their plans together and submit them before the end of the fiscal year,” he argued.
Coun. Albanese also said, with all respect to the local physicians, there’s “no guarantee” they won’t leave the community once their shares are bought up.
“I’m just trying to protect the interests of the community,” he remarked. “The people of Fort Frances deserve a better shake.”
Mayor Onichuk said during Monday night’s meeting, and maintained afterwards, that he had reservations on the wording of the resolution, which stated the town would lend up to $1 million to the Group Health Association when, in fact, the money will be lent to a yet-to-be-formed non-profit corporation spearheaded by the GHA.
“I think it’s absolutely inappropriate. If we’re going to pass a resolution, it’s got to be accurate,” he stressed. “It’s being rushed for no reason. And I don’t that’s in the best interest of the people of the Town of Fort Frances.
“I don’t think there’s any question that anybody in this room, or in this community, would agree that the clinic model needs to be changed,” he added. “I don’t think there’s any question that the formation of a Fort Frances community- based Family Health Team is an important thing for the future.
“This is about dollars and cents, that’s what it comes down to,” the mayor argued. “Rushing through a resolution with that recklessness is, quite frankly, scary.
“We just passed a resolution that said we’re going to give a charitable organization a million dollars with no conditions. It’s bizarre.”
Mayor Onichuk said the town definitely should do something about the clinic, but should have kept its options open longer.
“There’s lot of good ideas out there,” he said. “Quite frankly, I think we should take a bulldozer to the clinic, build a new library there, and build a brand-new clinic on the lot next to the condominiums.
“That, to me, makes sense. We’d have a new building, ultra-modern equipment,” he remarked. “We need a place for a new library; right there on that [clinic] lot is the place for it.
“But obviously this was rushed through on some people’s agenda. Certainly not mine,” the mayor added.