FSJ Medical Clinic announces new doctor, but impending closure still remains

Photo by Erica Fisher

The Fort St. John Medical Clinic is welcoming the arrival of a new doctor to its ranks this summer, but says it will still close by the year’s end if an influx of new doctors isn’t found.

Dr. Carly Loomes will begin practicing at the clinic sometime this summer, once finishing commitments in both the Northwest Territories and on Vancouver Island, the clinic announced today.

Her start date is unknown, but Dr. Paul Mackey confirmed Loomes agreed to come work at the clinic on a temporary basis.

It’s unknown how long that placement will be, but Loomes will take on the patients of Drs. Pieter and Jana de Bruyn, who will be leaving Fort St. John by July 10, according to Mackey.

Mackey said Loomes was recruited by the North Peace Division of Family Practice.

In the interim, current doctors at the clinic will continue care for the de Bruyns’ patients until Loomes arrives.

However, Mackey said the clinic may still close at the end of 2015 unless a new batch of doctors is brought to the city to join the clinic on a permanent basis.

Drs. Richard Moody and William Watt are planning to retire by the end of the year after practicing for more than 30 years in the city, according to Mackey, and both are urgently searching for doctors to join the practice.

“They are more than happily prepared to work part-time… but they need someone to share the practice with them,” said Mackey.

“They have a large practice, double the size of normal provincial numbers. They’re hoping someone can be found to help share workload to help them ease out.

“If no one is there, they’ll have to unfortunately stop. We can’t sustain looking after 11,000 patients,” Mackey said in an earlier interview with Energetic City.

The clinic has spent two years trying to find a replacements, but has little luck.

The departures would leave the clinic with just three remaining family doctors — including Drs. Glen Hamill and Kevin Page — but the trio will opt out of family practice and move to strictly hospital duties.

Mackey says Fort St. John’s doctor shortages will persist unless changes are made to how clinic models and doctor workloads in smaller rural communities are funded and managed.

Doctors generally work on a fee for service basis, meaning they are paid for the number of patients they see and services they render in a year.

Though Northern Health advertises salaries in the $350,000-plus range in its postings for Fort St. John, a recent study pegged average clinic overhead costs for doctors in the city at $10,000 per doctor per month.

Mackey said doctors have become a “victim” to the city’s expansion, struggling to juggle their clinic demands with the demands for services at the Fort St. John Hospital. If a doctor is only spending a day or two in his clinic, the costs become unjustifiable to absorb, he said.

That alone is a deterrent enough to attracting doctors — new grads and otherwise — who are seeking jobs in a competitive market across the country, where better subsidies or health models are offered, said Mackey.

Northern Health is currently advertising for nine family and general doctors in Fort St. John, five of which are locum positions for various contracts through the summer and fall. It is also recruiting for two surgeons, a pediatrician and a psychiatrist.

Northern Health is offering a $20,000 signing bonus, along with $15,000 in relocation funding to doctors that are hired.

Five new doctors expected to arrive in July and September, who will be assigned to the unattached patient clinic for residents who don’t have a family doctor.

Those doctors are Dr. Hamid Sadri, Dr. Inthuja Nanda, Dr. Wea’am Abbas, and Dr. Shiva Tayebi, all of whom are just completing their International Medical Graduate Residency Program.