Physician signed on with Burns Lake Medical Clinic Society

Dr. Ronald Engelbrecht, from South Africa, signed a three to five year contract with the Burns Lake Medical Clinic Society last month.

Maria Varga, member of the Burns Lake Medical Clinic Society said the group has officially hired a South African physician for their proposed not for profit medical clinic.

Varga said to Lakes District News that Dr. Ronald Engelbrecht signed a three to five year contract with the Burns Lake Medical Clinic Society last month.

She said the physician and his family are scheduled to arrive in Burns Lake on Aug. 1, 2012.

“His wife is an occupational therapist and Northern Health have a job posting for an occupational therapist in Burns Lake, so I have passed on this information to her,” she said.

“We do have other doctors lined up for the clinic,” Varga said, adding that she did not want to give out any further details until things have been officially finalized.

She said Dr. Engelbrecht is a family physician and an emergency room physician and has completed all of his training in South Africa.

“Dr. Engelbrecht would have hospital privileges to allow him to also work at the Lakes District Hospital and he will be doing on call work. I have been working with Sheilagh Wilson from Northern Health on Dr. Engelbrecht’s paperwork and work visa,” Varga added.

Jessica Quinn, Northern Health’s media spokesperson said that the society has recruited the doctor but that Northern Health is helping the society with the paper work. Quinn said any doctor hired in Northern Health’s area has to go through a recruitment process with Northern Health to determine their suitability through qualifications. As reported in Lakes District News edition of Feb. 22, 2012 Quinn had previously said that Northern Health had no knowledge of any doctor being hired for the clinic but was confused between the Burns Lake Medical Clinic Society and the Burns Lake Medical Clinic.

“Something like hospital privileges will be worked out between Northern Health and the physician at a later date,” she said adding that there would be no issues with hospital privileges for the society’s doctors.

Varga said Dr. Engelbrecht is excited to come to Burns Lake and is looking forward to working in the community.

The society has chosen a location for the proposed clinic but Varga said at this point she is not willing to disclose it until they society signs the final rental agreement.

Fundraising efforts for the clinic are also still continuing with start up costs expected to be about $250,000.

Donna Brochez, society president said that the society will be meeting with a financial institution within the next couple of weeks to discuss a loan for the proposed clinic. She said, “We are meeting with a man in Smithers to go over the paperwork.”

Brochez said, “We would rather not have to take out a loan as we are non profit, but this is a last resort. We sent out letters for [funding] support to Endako Mines, Pinnacle Pellet and Hampton Affiliates [before the Jan. 20, 2012 explosion and fire] but due to the circumstances with the Babine Forest Products tragedy we are not following up with our request to Hampton Affiliates. Our requests to large stakeholders in the area has not been promising, so we are left with no other choice.”

Brochez said the society is also still waiting for a letter of support from the Village of Burns Lake.

“It has been a long time [since a letter of support from the village was requested],” Brochez said, adding that she had spoken with Stephanie Beerling, Village of Burns Lake director of corporate services about the issue.

“Ms. Beerling spoke for Mayor Luke Strimbold and said they cannot support the Burns Lake Medical Clinic Society as they would be seen to be favouring one group over another,” Brochez said.

However Beerling said to Lakes District News, “Council has not yet made a decision on providing a letter of support to the Burns Lake Medical Clinic Society, but this topic will be included on the upcoming agenda for the regular council meeting on March 6, 2012.”

Mayor Luke Strimbold also confirmed with Lakes District News that no decision has been made by council on providing a letter of support to the society.

“It [the discussion regarding a letter of support] is on the agenda for our next council meeting,” he said.

Brochez said, “We still have a couple of ‘irons in the fire.’ We have contacted the Spirit of the North Foundation, they have a meeting in March so we will have to wait and see, and we have applied to Nechako Kitimaat Development Fund Society, but because they match funds we would only be eligible for about $25,000.”

According to Brochez the society have about $25,000 banked towards the start up costs of the clinic.

“Northern Health has been offering us some good suggestions and have been very supportive in this process,” she added.