The official opening of the Wallaceburg Community Medical Centre in June illustrates an innovative strategy to address the physician recruitment and retention challenges experienced in this, the most under-serviced area in Ontario.
The group practice clinic is the result of creative partnerships between the private and public sector, involving businesses, the local hospitals and physicians. It provides a turnkey operation for existing and new physicians in the community, thereby minimizing administrative issues (leasing, staffing, computer systems, supplies, billing etc.) and providing physicians a more efficient method of providing care.
The Centre is presently occupied by three full-time family physicians who relocated in May from their Margaret Avenue facility (Dr. Emer Dudley, Dr. Bob Mayo, and Dr. Dennis Atoe); the Chief Medical Officer of the Municipality of Chatham-Kent, Dr. Doug Pudden; Chiropractor, Dr. Daniel Perini; and Nurse Practitioner, Beverly Boyes. The Clinic is built and equipped to accommodate three additional family physicians. The first to be attracted, is Dr. Tom Nguyen, introduced at today’s event, and expected to begin practice in mid-July.
Chatham-Kent Health Alliance’s financial commitment to the project was the provision of information systems within the Clinic itself and ensuring a link between the Clinic and the hospital. The Alliance also provided capital equipment. This was made possible through an endowment fund held by Sydenham District Hospital.
The concept for this integrated primary care group practice arose from a study done in the region by Med-Emerg International. (MEI). Med-Emerg International Inc., who has also been contracted to staff and manage the new facility has built a pre-eminent clinic network across Canada with more than 25 clinics under management. Med-Emerg specializes in the coordination and delivery of emergency and primary health care services. These services include physician and nurse staffing and recruitment, clinical management services, development and management of physician practices, and a comprehensive practice management program. The company is the sole national provider of physician management and healthcare recruitment services to the Canadian Armed Forces. Med-Emerg is a national provider of physician services to the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries to support the management of clinical trials and drug launches.
Med-Emerg Founder and CEO, Dr. Ramesh Zacharias said, ” The clinic in Wallaceburg is a true partnership between the hospital, local physicians, and Med-Emerg. We believe this will be a model that other communities should emulate.”
Uwe Lynen, Senior Project Manager, P&P Data Systems Inc. reiterated the importance of information technology at the Centre. “Today, like no other industry, healthcare is changing rapidly with overwhelming demands for more service and increased service offerings, while simultaneously facing cutbacks in almost every type of funding. In order for healthcare to be successful, new and innovative approaches are required. Electronic record keeping and communication can address the demands of this environment.”
P & P is uniquely positioned to accommodate these requirements, offering products to both small and large practices of different specialties.
“P & P expresses its thanks to the hard working partners that put this project together. It is a privilege to be a part of the model that is bringing technology and doctors closer together than ever before,” he added.
The 6,000 sq. ft. clinic is located at 30 McNaughton Avenue, Wallaceburg. It includes an on-site private lab operated by Canadian Medical Laboratories. Lab results are available electronically to the physician and forwarded by computer to the patient’s electronic medical file.
Dr. Emer Dudley expressed the views of local physicians in the Clinic when she said, “We are delighted! This is exactly what the modern physician wants – good facilities, professional staff, back-up from colleagues during vacation, a vibrant community and a good quality of life for themselves and their families.”
At today’s celebration, Alliance CEO, Bernie Blais acknowledged community leaders who have spearheaded local physician recruitment and retention initiatives. These have included the local Rotary Club, the Health Care Human Resources Strategy Team; the Chatham-Kent Physician Recruitment and Retention Committee; and others. “Chatham-Kent is the most under-serviced area in Ontario,” he said, “and we have made physician recruitment & retention a ‘community affair’ bringing forward local champions who have come together to find innovative solutions to our challenges.”
Among the 80 special guests was the President of the Ontario Hospital Association, David MacKinnon who earlier in the day, toured the hospitals. Mr. MacKinnon said, “The single best thing we can do for the Canadian health-care system is to encourage physicians to work together so that they can employ other health professionals, improve physician working conditions and provide the public with improved and more convenient access to appropriate care. The Centre we are opening today should serve as a model for this type of partnership and should improve patient care significantly.”