Solution to city’s doctor problems a complex discussion: Pimm

Despite the possible closure of the Fort St. John Medical Clinic by the end of the year, Peace River North MLA Pat Pimm remains confident an interim solution can be found to the current retirement and departure-driven doctor’s shortage.

“I’m very hopeful that we will come up with at least a mid-term solution to go along the short term work we’ve been doing,” Pimm said.

“We have to adapt with the times and come up with a solution that’s going to help us get to where we need to be.”

Arguably the key focus of the long-term solution is coming up with a new pay model that helps doctors address their overhead costs, and Mr. Pimm has no problem with taxpayer dollars being part it.

“Paying the full overhead fees is extremely hard to do… that is what our discussion is all around, trying to figure out what that looks like,” said Pimm.

“It’s not an easy discussion. It’s one that eventually will have to have some funding from somebody, whether it’s government or whether it’s locals or whatever.”

Mr. Pimm continued: “We subsidize policing, we subsidize fire departments, we subsidize protective services. Quite frankly, I have to think doctors are protective services.

“You can’t live without a doctor, I’m afraid,” he said.

As for the future of the Fort St. John Clinic, Mr. Pimm emphasized there’s a concerted and co-operative initiative underway to prevent its closure.

The clinic, operated by the North Peace Division of Family Practice, has set a meeting with both Northern Health and the provincial health ministry in July.

“We are going to be doing everything in our power to reach an agreement to keep the Fort St. John Medical Clinic open,” Pimm said.

Two-thirds of the clinic, housed in the old Immaculata School, also houses the Northern Health’s unattached patient clinic, which opened last summer.

Mr. Pimm has confirmed Northern Health still has two years left on a three-year lease for the unattached clinic, and it will remain open regardless of what happens at the end of year to the Fort St. John clinic.

As for a long-term solution, Pimm offered this:

“I think the model of the future is going to look like this: you’re going to have an alternative billing program, where the doctors are basically working for the health authority on a contract-type basis,” he said.

“I think fee for service is a model.. (that) I don’t know how long is going last. A lot of the new physicians coming into the workplace, they don’t want to have that big overhead, they don’t want to own their own business.”

On Monday, we have plans to take this story to Northern Health, and talk to Dr. Ron Chapman, the Vice-President of Medicine with Northern Health.

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