City Council hears presentation on ideas to address physician shortage

Back in December, Fort St. John City Council decided to accept Myers Norris Penny LLP as a sole source proposal so the organization could create a research study and business plan to determine the cost and viability of creating a public clinic. Today Council heard the results of that study and potential solutions to the problem of physician recruitment and retaining them in Fort St. John.

The study examined the staffing numbers at the ABC Medical Clinic, and the Fort St. John Family Medical Clinic, as well as the financials of both facilities. The MNP study compared the figures of the local clinics to other clinics in B.C., as well as Manitoba and Ontario for analysis. The comparison illustrated that overhead rates charged at both local clinics do not appear to be significantly higher than other clinics researched.

As of September of this year, Fort St. John is projected to have 15 family physicians with office practices in the community. Northern Health projected a need for 31 family physicians for 2010/2011. Since that number has not been updated since, the study noted that Fort St. John currently needs “at least” 31 doctors.

National director of health consulting for MNP Greg Lamothe presented Council with clinic model options in response to the shortage. The options included construction of a new clinic, purchasing existing space from the Fort St. John Family Practice, leasing space from the Fort St. John Family Practice, or leasing elsewhere. The options looked at variables such as the number of physicians, the amount of space, construction costs, operating costs, lease rates, debt and term rates, and a number of other factors.

Each of the four options provided their downsides, in particular the cost of the monthly and annual physician overhead when it came to options one and four which would potentially give Fort St. John the required amount of family doctors. Options two and three, the purchasing or leasing of space from the Fort St. John Family Practice would keep overhead costs reasonable, but would still leave Fort St. John short at least 10 doctors.

After the presentation Mayor Lori Ackerman said the second and third options presented were short term options for Fort St. John, but that Council is looking for a long term answer to the problem.

“My only stumbling block with this whole thing is 21 physicians is not sufficient if we’re looking long term,” she said. “This is going to the long term health care committee. Community long term is decades. If we’re looking at 2010-2011 as saying we needed 31 doctors, I appreciate options two and three but that’s more of a short term fix.”

The report will be now be looked at by the Long Term Health Care Committee to determine the next steps in the process.

Below is a copy of the full presentation made to Fort St. John City Council.

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