Mayor pushing for more clinic consultations

While the Fort Frances Community Clinic’s application for a Family Health Team (FHT) already has been submitted to the province, Mayor Dan Onichuk feels there should have been more consultation with local residents and other district communities.
And in an effort to rectify that in the future, the mayor said Monday night he’s in the process of organizing a meeting for district municipalities and First Nations to discuss the future of the clinic, as well as other health care issues such as Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) and Rainycrest Home for the Aged.
A date for this meeting should be set very soon.
“I think it’s necessary a health forum for all district municipalities takes place,” noted Mayor Onichuk.
In response to a question from the public at Monday night’s council meeting, the mayor noted the FHT application was submitted by the Fort Frances Community Clinic was not for just Fort Frances, but the entire district—from Rainy River to Lac La Croix, and up to Sioux Narrows.
“Although the application has gone in, and it’s laid out that broad area . . . a business plan needs to be worked out,” said Mayor Onichuk. “How it’s going to work? How it’s going to be funded? Who the partners are? Who’s kicking in money, if anybody?
“What is the relationship going to be to doctors in Emo versus doctors in Rainy River?” he added.
Mayor Onichuk noted the process to establish a FHT is moving forward regardless of the fact he may not entirely agree with it at this point.
“Do I personally feel that there’s been enough consultation and input? Quite frankly, I hear more of ‘I just want to know and try to understand’ from people.
“Do I think there’s been enough of that? No, I don’t.
“The first step is to get to all the municipal leaders throughout the district, have that meeting, and get that input,” he stressed. “That will certainly create, in our own municipalities, some public meetings for public input.
“This isn’t cut and dry. This process doesn’t happen overnight,” he noted.
Mayor Onichuk also said it’s imperative to get some information from experts.
“I don’t know what the impact of rostering will be, so I feel it’s important we get somebody to sit here and explain it to everybody so at least we know what it means,” he remarked.
“There’s no question the community buy-in has to be here,” the mayor stressed. “[The Family Health Team concept] just won’t work unless everybody buys into it.”
< *c>Positive response
Several members of the public on hand for Monday night’s council meeting were encouraged by the mayor’s pledge for more consultations with district municipalities and area First Nations.
“Our group is extremely happy tonight [that] the mayor has made a strong commitment, and the council’s made the commitment I believe, to meet with all the district municipalities and the native groups that encompass an extremely large area,” said Allan T. Bedard, who chairs a local group of concerned taxpayers who have been insistent since October that council be more open regarding the whole clinic issue.
“Hopefully, they’ll get enough information out to the public that we can become informed enough that we can have some kind of idea as to what kind of decision can be made, and have some input in that decision,” Bedard added.
“Right now, our concern is simply that one council, or a closed council, is making a decision that affects all the municipalities between here and Rainy River, up to Nestor Falls, and all the native bands up to Lac La Croix.
“Hopefully, those councils will get on board and make some kind of a resolution, as well,” added Bedard.
“So, what they’ve done tonight [Monday]—we’re happy. This is one step in the right direction and let’s hope it continues.”
“It’s hard for me to understand when people can put names on an application and send it away without their knowledge. I just don’t understand that,” said local resident Nick Wihnan.
“But now, we may find out something. We may actually agree on something,” he added. “This is all we’ve asked for since Oct. 12—nothing less—and now we’re getting it.”
“We realize they’ve opened the door, and we’re happy with that. It’s a step in the right direction,” reiterated Bedard.