Council won’t reconsider clinic resolution

Despite being presented with a petition bearing more than 1,800 signatures asking it to do so, town council on Monday night would not repeal the resolution passed at its Oct. 24 meeting to finance the Group Health Association and have the non-profit group manage the Fort Frances Clinic.
Allan Bedard, along with a large group of concerned citizens, appeared before council at Monday night’s meeting, requesting council put a moratorium on its decision and allow the public 30, or even 60, days to provide the input it was promised regarding the future of the clinic.
Bedard said that, judging from the petition which he and others have been circulating over the past couple of weeks, it’s clear the public does not agree with council’s actions.
He noted he was “overwhelmed” by the number of signatures, and further surprised by the fact about 200 of them belonged to residents from other district communities, like Alberton, La Vallee, Devlin, and Emo.
The latter are concerned about the impact of the change in clinic management, specifically the concept of “rostering” (where each patient will sign a contract with a physician and agree to obtain services from the network to which the physician belongs).
“We’re not asking for confrontation. We’re just asking for the input we were promised,” said Bedard, adding there are other ideas out there regarding the clinic, including having private owners, moving the clinic into the hospital, and having a strip mall in which the clinic, along with other businesses, would be located.
“Council adopted this resolution not unanimously, but that decision will have a strong impact on the destiny of health care in Fort Frances,” Bedard warned.
While Coun. John Albanese made a motion to reconsider council’s previous resolution, no other member of council seconded it. Because he was chairing the council meeting, Mayor Dan Onichuk was not allowed to second it.
But Coun. Rick Wiedenhoeft defended council’s stance, noting that although there was a promise of public input at an Oct. 12 meeting, waiting 30 or 60 days at this point was too long to wait.
He added he felt GHA is still the right choice, and stood by voting for the resolution passed at the Oct. 24 council meeting.
Coun. Wiedenhoeft noted the clinic has been owned, run, and maintained by the doctors here for decades, and “people expect this to continue forever.”
He added it’s been made clear the current way in which the clinic operates doesn’t work any longer and changes need to be made. The current doctors could walk away at any time if nothing changes—and that no new physicians will come and replace them.
Coun. Wiedenhoeft stressed the $1-million financing will be paid back, and that the estimated losses of interest on the money may yet be mitigated through different measures.
“It’s a win-win situation,” he argued.
But Bedard countered that Coun. Wiedenhoeft based his decision on information the public was not privy to, and unlike the public, he did have an opportunity to voice his opinion on the decision.
Coun. Albanese, who along with Mayor Onichuk had voted against the resolution at the Oct. 24 meeting, maintained council has not seen a proposal from GHA as to exactly what the town’s $1 million will be used for—and that there’s no guarantee this direction will bring new doctors here.
“I feel strongly . . . the people of Fort Frances deserve respect. That’s why they’re here. They need more information,” Coun. Albanese said.