The first annual general meeting to be held by the newly formed Burns Lake Medical Clinic Society was well supported by local residents last week.
As reported in the Lakes District News edition of Nov. 23, 2011 the group officially became a society on Aug. 23, 2011 and has since been moving steadily ahead with their plans to set up a not for profit medical clinic in Burns Lake.
The medical clinic would operate separately from the privately owned Burns Lake Medical Clinic and physicians would be paid based on a fee for service model.
Donna Brochez, society secretary said the projected set up cost of the clinic will be between $150,000 to $200,000 and a detailed plan has been drawn up.
Locals, Maria Varga, John Illes, Paula Van Tine, Rick Schritt and Brochez presented the plans to the public during the meeting.
Van Tine said they plan to provide excellent long term medical care for the people of the Lakes District. She added that the clinic will be locally operated and on the terms of the community.
“As a non profit organization, our clinic will offer a clear alternative to the care being offered by rotating locums working at the present medical clinic. We will actively recruit medical personnel to our area and retain staff by providing a positive working environment for them at our clinic,” she added.
Van Tine said local residents are becoming increasingly frustrated by having to repeat their medical histories to a stream of revolving locums. “Important medical information could be lost or forgotten. At this point I don’t think we have control of our health care. I had to drive 700 kilometres one way for a 10 minute ultrasound. Wouldn’t it be great if our clinic was profitable enough to book an ultrasound technician?” Van Tine said.
Brochez said the proposed clinic will be operated exclusively for non profit purposes and surpluses will be reinvested in the clinic.
“Why do we need a new clinic? Because it’s time to take control of our health care,” she said.
Brochez said the benefits include longer opening hours — including evenings and Saturdays. Computerized patient records and state of the art technology.
“The building will be new and wired for the 21 century. There will be instant transmission of patient records and tests. The way a building looks matters,” Van Tine said, adding that the existing for profit Burns Lake Medical Clinic building is deteriorating and outdated.
Illes said the society plan to rent a local building and are currently in discussion with the owner. He said moving forward and signing the lease will depend on funding being secured.
“We hope to have a fully functional clinic opened by Feb. 1 2012,” he said adding that the society already has two male doctors and possibly one female doctor waiting in the wings.
The society is actively applying for grants as well as seeking private donations. They are also offering society membership for $20 annually per person.
Varga said the idea is not just ‘pie in the sky.’
She said a similar clinic was opened in Dryden, Ontario after similar problems attracting physicians to their community.
“They now have 32 doctors and own an ultrasound machine.”
Illes said, “Our first goal is to raise capital and then recruit like crazy. We do have doctors interested and we can’t keep them waiting for too long.”
Brochez said they plan on actively recruiting physicians, nurse practitioners and other medical personnel and signing them to three year contracts. “There would be huge benefits …. we will go out and showcase our community and recruit at universities. New doctors have massive student loans so to come out of university with a three year employment contract would be very appealing to them.”
Local resident Fritz Goosen said, “We need to get together on a massive scale and build a new multiplex. The building could have a pool and a hospital. To not have something like this is a detriment to our community and we need to build a complex that is worth having for the future. I think we should build our own hospital.”
A local resident asked who will work on call and in the emergency room at the Lakes District Hospital.
“Northern Health will have to continue to maintain the emergency room. It is Northern Health’s job to keep the emergency room going,” Van Tine said, adding that some of the doctors at the new clinic may also want to sign up for hospital privileges.
Varga said during 2012 they plan to have a minimum of two physicians. “We will have operating costs of $300,000 — monthly it will be $30,000. The first year we will have a deficit of $135,000. The second year we hope to have a minimum of four physicians and have a deficit of $64,000. The third year we will have five full time physicians and make a $100,000 profit which will be turned back into the clinic.”
Local Jim Minger said, “I congratulate you. I think this is the right thing to do.”
Bill Miller, director of Regional District of Bulkley Nechako area B, Burns Lake rural said he applauds the society for taking action.
“I have to play a bit of a devils advocate here and ask if you think by doing this there will be a risk of Northern Health not coming back with the funding for the new hospital? They may say that because we have such a beautiful and successful medical clinic that we don’t need a new hospital and invest their money in Smithers instead.”
Illes said, “I don’t see that as a risk. But they might say, because we have six doctors here we can even support an emergency room in the new hospital.”
Brochez agreed. “I think we are helping Northern Health by helping ourselves. You attract a lot more bees with honey than you do with vinegar,” she said.
“I think the best way to show that we need a new hospital is to have physicians here,” Illes added.
He also said that he received an email from Northern Health’s chief operating officer Michael McMillan last week saying that Northern Health will support the Burns Lake Medical Society in their quest for a not for profit clinic.
“It’s not funding support, but having their support is great.”
“The fact that Northern Health want to come on board now that the train has left the station is a positive thing. We are really excited about this,” Brochez added.
Michael McMillan, Northern Health’s chief operating officer said to Lakes District News that his email only said he is interested in sitting down with the society to discuss their plans. He said he has no information about the society or their plans and therefore can’t say Northern Health is in support.
“I think however that the idea is probably consistent with the message that Northern Health has. We want to work in partnership with communities and we will work with community groups to find a sustainable solution to health care.”
McMillan said he is not familiar with any other community run not for profit clinics in the Northern Health area or in B.C. “I believe there is one in Ontario. To date I have not received any information about the Burns Lake Medical Clinic Society’s plans or set any meeting dates with them.”
Thirteen locals are now signed on as directors of the Burns Lake Medical Clinic Society and executive positions on the board will be decided during the society’s next meeting.