| Mar 01, 2007

Feature Article - March 1, 2007

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Feature Article - March 1, 2007

Verona's doctor search

by Inie Platenius


In the next many months, a group of interested Verona community members will start to lay the groundwork for a serious initiative to attract new medical practitioners to the Verona area in preparation for the time when Doctors Dempsey and Townsend retire (several years hence). This is the first of a series of articles about the things the community needs to consider in their quest for continued excellence of care.When Floyd Deyo was about 14 years old, his cousin did a side cast off their fishing boat and Floyd caught a double hooked fishing plug in both his cheek and earlobe. He trudged up from the lake to Doc Goodfellow’s place (now Korner Kastle B & B) to get it looked after. “What, could you not find the lake?” was the doctor’s greeting. He then told Floyd to run across the street to Revell’s for a pair of side cutters, which the doctor then used to snip off the hook in his ear. But the cheek was another job altogether. After looking the situation over for a minute, the doctor whipped the hook out of Floyd’s cheek while simultaneously intoning, “Now this is going to hurt, didn’t it?”

That story says a lot about what medical care was like 50 or so years ago. First of all, there was no question but that Floyd would head straight to the local doctor. A trip to Kingston would have been out of the question. And there was probably no question in Doc Goodfellow’s mind that he was going to do whatever necessary to fix the situation. Government regulations and patient lawsuits were a world away. Like today, the doctor of a 100 years ago may well have been a respected, even revered member of the community, but he (and it was almost certainly a he) carried with him a different set of community expectations. He was more likely to have grown up in the area. At least one former local doctor grew up down the road, went to Queen’s and then came home to practice. He was expected to be on call day and night, but on the other hand, people were less likely to call him than they now are to go to an ER or all night clinic. We have come to expect that just about anything that goes wrong with us can be put right, and we resent waiting for that to happen. But even 60 years ago, going to Kingston for care was a rare enough event that today people still talk about the time when they put grandma on the train to town, where a horse and buggy transported her to hospital. People got their care here in their own community, and what they couldn’t get, they pretty much lived with or died from.Yesterday’s patients paid for their doctoring not much by our standards; a doctor’s standard of living was frequently no higher than any other educated community member and quite a bit less than many. But the cost of care came from patients’ own pockets (or henhouses and hog butcheries, as was sometimes the payment). One ledger from a local doc, now long gone to his heavenly reward, shows fees of 50 cents here and 75 cents there. And the ledger sometimes reads “no charge” probably because the doc knew the family circumstances. Today, we are so far from paying out of pocket for our general doctoring, that most of us forget that anyone ever did. A doctor used to set up practice from his home. Today, that’s nearly unheard of. Where would she put all the diagnostic equipment? She needs a separate room for the communications and record keeping alone! By 1960 it was clear that Verona could no longer wait for a young graduate to set up practice in the front parlour, so a group of far-sighted Veronites met the challenge of changing medical practice by forming “an altruistic society for the express purpose of attracting to …the Village of Verona , a qualified medical practitioner…” To that end, they contributed $14,000 to build a suitable residence “which residence was considered an essential by the association to attract a well-qualified medical practitioner to the community.” (As a comparison, 10 years later in 1969 a farm with outbuildings and 180 acres sold for $14,000 15,000.) That building became the Verona Medical Centre and it was that building and the support of the community behind it that in 1963 attracted Dr. Gord Day and his wife Louise. The group of 14 held the mortgage, managed the property, advertised for and found the young doctor who would commit to staying in Verona for ten years. The Verona Lions Club offered to pay their moving expenses and to donate a stretcher and several wheelchairs they had on hand. Today we face a similar challenge. Hundreds of communities across Ontario are under-served, but thanks to the foresight of those 14 people and of Gord and Louise Day, we are among the fortunate communities with consistent and caring practitioners. But for that situation to continue, another group must step forward to take up the cause. On March 28 at the Lions Hall there’ll be a meeting of the Verona & District Health Services Committee to explain the steps in the process. We should show up and find out what’s going on. We owe it to our children and to all those who cared enough in the past to provide for us.

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