‘Our health in our hands’ is the slogan the Burns Lake Medical Clinic Society has adopted, and the society is working towards doing just that.
The group officially became a society on Aug. 23, 2011 and has since been moving steadily ahead with their plans. The non profit society, comprised of local community members, has written and submitted a proposal to a number of funders in the hopes of setting up a not for profit medical clinic that will be staffed by at least four to six physicians.
The physicians would be paid based on a fee for service model. Donna Brochez, society secretary said the group is excited about the prospect. She said the projected set up cost of the clinic will be about $150,000 to $200,000 and a detailed plan has been drawn up.
While the group has not received any funding towards to project yet, they are hopeful their grant submissions will be approved.
“The society came about because members of the Lakes District Health Advisory Committee [LDHAC] were fed up with what is happening to our health care. A community in Dryden, Ontario was experiencing the same thing as were are … 15,000 people with no doctors, so the community pulled together and built a non profit clinic, they hired a manager, a secretary and physicians. We are looking to do the same thing and take back our health care,” she said.
Brochez explained that the group has decided to take on the initiative themselves. “We don’t want to step on any toes, but our greatest fear is that the community won’t receive funding for the new hospital because doctors are not being recruited.” Brochez is also a member of the LDHAC.
She said the health care situation in Burns Lake is also bad for the local economy. “There is not a lot of feel good stories about our health care …. so we thought, why can’t we do this?”
Brochez said the proposed clinic will be a completely separate entity from the Burns Lake Medical Clinic. She said copies of the society’s proposal has already been sent to all of the local physicians, however to date, there has not been a response and none of the local physicians have signed on as members of the society.
Brochez said she was excited by news that a similar idea is also moving forward in Prince George.
“It goes to show that there is other ways to get what we need,” she said.
Spirit of the North Health Care Foundation chief executive officer Don Gowan said to Lakes District News that a new medical care clinic for Prince George will be up and running early next year. He said the foundation raised $375,000, to combine with the Prince George Division of Family Practice to establish a ‘one stop shop’ style not for profit medical clinic.
Northern Health is also a partner in the venture and will be assisting with the provision of clinical resources.
Gowan said that 90 Prince George based general practitioners formed the Prince George Division of Family Practice. “They are the ones organizing the clinic,” he said.
They are working on recruiting four new doctors to work at the care clinic, each on a part time basis. There will also be nurse practitioners and mental health and addictions services available.
“We are trying to solve a problem at the front end, rather than patients turning up for care at emergency,” he said.
The clinic is scheduled to be staffed and opened by April, 2012.
“We are the final piece in the puzzle. Without the funding we provided I don’t think the clinic would have gone ahead,” Gowan said, adding that he is really excited about the project.
He said the physicians would be paid hourly rather than a per visit pay. “It is a new concept in the province and the model could be copied else where in the province in it’s successful.”
Brochez said, “There is hope, it is another way of going bout getting doctors to the community.”
She said she would prefer not to say how the society is planning to attract physicians but did say they have a lot of contacts. “We are pretty confident that there will be doctors coming,” she added.
Michael McMillan, Northern Health’s chief operating officer said the idea for the new clinic in Prince George Clinic is more about providing a space for physicians to work, than attracting physicians to work in Prince George.
“There is between 10,000 and 15,000 people in Prince George without a family doctor,” he said.
He went on to say that the clinic idea is one of the tools that is being used in Prince George to create vacant positions and create practice opportunities for physicians.
“I don’t see how a similar idea would work in Burns Lake. There is already a practice in Burns Lake for up to six physicians with vacant positions … setting up another clinic would not benefit Burns Lake … it’s just not feasible,” he said adding that is hard to envision how the concept would work in Burns Lake.
“We are working with the [Burns Lake] physicians and have already proposed a different compensation model to the local physicians that was turned down,” he said.
As reported in the Lakes District News edition of April 27, 2011, after lengthy discussions local physicians turned down the suggestion of an alternative payments program (APP) funding model for the clinic. The APP model would have seen ownership of the Burns Lake Medical Clinic transferred to Northern Health and local physicians placed on contract with the health authority for their services.
Under the APP model Northern Health would have maintained clinic staff and nurse practitioners. McMillan said to Lakes District News in April that if the APP model was put in place, the recruitment of local physicians would be much easier as the model has previously worked well in the communities of McBride and Valemont, which are similar to Burns Lake.
“Northern Heath did work towards this but the physicians decided to choose a different path,” McMillan said.
McMillan also said that Northern Health will not be managing the new clinic in Prince George. “It is being run by a group of physicians.”
He went on to say that they are still working towards recruiting in Burns Lake and working with the local physicians. “We continue to do everything we can to recruit physicians to Burns Lake. I am reluctant to say we have been successful until there is feet on the ground and something signed, sealed and delivered, but we are in discussions with physicians.”
Brochez said, “Mr. McMillan is entitled to his comments, our community needs to do something now, we have waited far too long and being a resource based community puts most of us at risk, remember “our health in our hands” it works in other communities in B.C. and in other parts of Canada. I invite Northern Health to come to our annual general meeting.”
Mayor Bernice Magee said she cannot comment on the proposal. “I know the society exists and know they want to set up some sort of clinic, but I am not aware of the logistics so I can’t comment,” she said.
Brochez said she would like to community to get behind the Burns Lake Medical Clinic Society and attend their annual general meeting at Nov. 24 at 7 p.m. at the College of New Caledonia.
“We need people to come out and support us,” she added.