Metke’s offer to buy clinic shot down

A local businessman is upset his proposal to purchase the Fort Frances Clinic has been turned down, and he has serious reservations about the direction things seem to be heading.
“The proposal was basically to buy the building from them, to either hire a management firm or actively manage the clinic myself [as far as the business aspect of it], to form a community Family Health Team, and begin active recruitment of physicians,” Kim Metke said this morning from Edmonton.
“The proposal has been turned down by the doctors. I don’t really understand why,” he added. “They seem to be quite interested in having the health group out of Sault Ste. Marie take over the building.
“I don’t understand exactly what they [the Group Health Association] are proposing because there doesn’t seem to have [been] an actual written proposal.
“It seems they want $1 million from the town, that would be given to the doctors for the building, then the building would be turned over to the health group. Then, the health group would actively manage the clinic.
“I don’t really understand this because it’s $1 million of public money,” he noted.
Metke said he’s contacted GHA rep Greg Punch, who was at the Oct. 12 public meeting here regarding the future of the clinic, to see if he purchased the clinic, whether GHA would be willing to work with him managing it, to which Punch replied they would.
But Metke then said he learned that GHA would not be involved at all in the recruitment and retention of doctors, “whether they were running the building for the physicians or for myself.”
“I’m a little aghast at that,” he remarked. “I don’t see that as a full partnership in the recruitment and retention of physicians, which is what I believe the public wants. And what I want.
“I don’t profess to have any experience running a clinic,” Metke admitted. “I’m currently running four other businesses. Do I want to get into that? Not really. I would prefer to hire somebody else, like Group Health.
“The reservation I have with Group Health is they are immediately into a conflict of recruitment with their Sault Ste. Marie operation,” he added.
“I want to explore all the options. Is there somebody else out there who would manage the business for us and be an active participant in recruitment, which is what I feel is the solution?” wondered Metke, adding he does have management expertise he can call on and has begun looking for people to actively manage the clinic.
But he has no agreements at this time, given the situation.
“I don’t want anyone, including myself, to spend a lot of time on this if we’re going to go a completely separate direction,” he remarked.
Metke said it’s a misconception there are no other avenues besides the one presented at the public meeting.
“There’s a ton of options,” he argued. “But certainly, from my perspective, if I buy the building, Group Health manages it, and the town still has $1 million to go out and recruit physicians, that’s a lot better than what’s being proposed right now.”
Metke said he’d rather see the public money go towards the recruitment and retention, “not financing a building that’s basically a ‘junker.’”
“There’s nothing valuable about it. [The doctors] would readily admit it’s a detriment to the recruitment of physicians to this area,” he noted.
“Several years ago, they did renovations on the building—the new obstetrician and gynecology suite at the back of the building—and as far as I know, everybody was extremely happy with that.
“And shortly thereafter, Dr. Anderson came to the community. I don’t say that’s the sole reason, but it didn’t hurt things at all.”
Renovating the clinic is a major reason why Metke wants his proposal to be seriously considered by town council.
“The physicians are saying we can’t recruit partly because of the business model and partly because of the building that’s in Fort Frances,” he said.
“Why am I interested? I operate a business in that building and actually have approached them about buying it repeatedly,” he remarked.
“I want to fix it so that a). I have a better place to work, and b). We can attract more physicians,” added Metke, adding he admits he has a vested interest in that the physicians and prescriptions they write and his pharmacy business are inexorably linked.
“Is it altruistic? Not particularly. But why would I not like to see the best heath care for our community? I live here, I have my family here,” he stressed.
“Do I want to go in and see my physicians and see him/her overworked and unhappy? Nobody does.”
Metke said that while local physicians have turned down his proposal, he’s hopeful town council will consider what he has had to say before making any final decisions.