Health care professionals serve up prognosis for ’98

Ask a health professional to give a diagnosis of what to expect over the next year or so and you’ll probably get a slate full of medicine for thought.
Most likely their prognoses will fall into one of three categories–recruitment, consolidation of services, and salary issues.
For Dr. Robert Algie, local physician and president of the Fort Frances Clinic, his number-one prediction for 1998 isn’t about how much chicken soup will get eaten over the winter months as the cold season escalates.
Rather, his 1998 forecast was focused on how many doctors will be working in the clinic here.
“My hopes for the New Year is success in our recruitment of doctors and that we will be fully staffed in our family medicine,” he said last week.
“We currently have eight doctors plus two surgeons and another possible four will bring the complement to a full 12,” he added.
He hopes Dr. Robert Nugent, who has been working on a temporary basis here for several months, will be one of the four but that won’t be known until the end of March.
Of the remaining three, one is definitely confirmed to begin practising here very soon.
“We hope to know about the two others within a week or so,” he said.
Dr. Algie estimated about five years have past since the Fort Frances Clinic had its full complement of physicians.
On the other hand, Dr. James O’Sullivan of the Emo hospital had a prediction of a different kind for his community–an end to what he termed “revolving door medicine.”
“I foresee most of the small practises going on salary . . . almost certainly,” he predicted Monday.
Emo doctors are hoping to enter into a contractual agreement with the Ministry of Health that would give them access to a guaranteed income rather than being paid on a per patient basis.
“I also believe that if doctors go on salary, there will stop being a shortage of [them] if the terms are attractive enough,” he said.
“In fact, things might get quite a bit better. Patients will get more care because they won’t be forced into revolving door medicine,” he reasoned.
“But salaries will have to be adequate enough to attract a decent quality of person into the job,” Dr. O’Sullivan stressed.
“Certainly for Emo, that’s a [prediction] but those issues aren’t quite so clear here,” remarked Dr. Algie. “I know there are a lot of physicians graduating now who would rather be on salary.
“They would prefer to work that way than be volume dependent,” he explained.
In terms of all over patient services, Dr. O’Sullivan predicted increased concentration of professions within one locale–which he called a very positive step for the public.
“I see the centralization of smaller practises like home care, dentistry, chiropody, and counselling [services], and quite possibly family and children’s services, all being integrated,” he predicted.
“That’s a great thing. We would be on speaking terms with the practitioners and have day-to-day contact with them instead of indirect involvement,” he said.
That’s a prediction Ken Allan also made. As team leader for the Northwestern Health Unit, he foresees combining patient services as a boost in the arm in more ways than one.
“I see increased co-operation with agencies as financial resources shrink,” he predicted yesterday.
“I think we’ll see various ministries and their directors working more closely together instead of having three different organizations run [one program],” he said.
Allan also said these changes may give patients better access to the skilled professionals they need to help them.
“What’s in it for the public is access to top expertise in agencies and it will achieve some cost reduction as well,” he said. “In some cases, I think we’ll see interesting and innovative things happen.”