Jeff Green | Feb 28, 2008
Feature Article - February 28, 2008
Back toHomeFeature Article - February 28, 2008 Positive Outlook for Verona Medical Services by Inie Platenius
About 60 people came out to hear the Verona District Medical Services Committee report on its progress with keeping Verona in the health care loop. Surveying the full hall in the afternoon session, Chairman John McDougall began by telling people that at last year’s inaugural meeting, the many support players from Kingston “couldn’t believe the level of support” that people showed here. It was clear from both the attendance and the crowd’s response that the support is still with us.
Dr. Laurel Dempsey began the session with “modestly good news”. A mid-career doctor with ties to the area (cottage on Bob’s Lake and family in Kingston) is very keen to join the Verona practice. Dr. Susan Derrick already practices here sometimes as a locum, and as her husband, a first class stationary engineer, has found a position in the area, she is ready to move from Oshawa. Although Doctor Dempsey “hasn’t stopped biting [her] nails yet”, this is welcome news in a climate of doctor baiting that often sees communities spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in perks to attract physicians.
At present, Dr. Connie Townsend has been acting as locum in the busy clinic, and if Dr. Derrick does join, Dr. Townsend would be able to finally take a full retirement (this is her second call out of retirement, to Verona’s great benefit). Since Dr. Dempsey does not intend to retire right away, the clinic would then have two permanent physicians on staff. That, however, does not end the search. Dr. Dempsey will retire at some point, and the clinic will definitely need another doctor (in fact, three doctors is not too many for Verona). To fill this need, the committee - and especially Drs. Dempsey and Wilson – are constantly on the lookout. They talk with Queen’s doctors who are finishing their residency – especially those who were not initially trained in Canada and need to give five years to an under-serviced area, which thanks to an initiative by Frontenac County’s Diana Britana, is what we are.
They also offer “A Week in the Country” to first year medical students at both Queen’s and Ottawa U. as a taste of the joys of rural practice. “We have lots to attract doctors,” says Dr. Dempsey. “We’re not interested in chucking money at docs to get them here.”
This approach is echoed in the rest of the committee. The 4 by 6 foot display board that committee member Jim Lansdell presented shows a vibrant community full of outdoor activities, cultural events, and proximity to major urban centres. He reported that the display, created by local artist Donna Larocque, was unique in last fall’s recruitment fair, where slick corporate media-produced displays were the norm. “The only way we could have made [the display] any more rustic would have been a beaver on one end and a moose on the other,” grinned Jim.
Doctors may well be coming to Verona without big monetary bribes, but that doesn’t mean the community won’t need money. The big fundraising thrust will revolve around the medical clinic itself. The building began as a leased facility, owned by a group of local residents, but for many years has been owned and managed by the doctors who practice there, first Dr. Day and now Dr. Dempsey.
This arrangement will not meet the needs of any of today’s doctors because gone are the days when buying your building was your retirement package. Docs want a “turn key” operation where they don’t have to worry about maintenance and upkeep. Two options for this are: private investor(s) buy the building or the community raises the money to buy the clinic and leases it back to the doctors. At the moment, both options are open and the committee has budgeted $200,000 towards making one of them work.
You can see the full budget and much more about health care in Verona on the Verona Community Association’s website: www.veronacommunity.on.ca. Click on Medical Information on the side menu. Then check the side menu on the medical page for the information you want.
One fascinating bonus of the information meetings was a report from Family Practice Nurse Carolyn Goodberry on the changing role of the family practice nurse. We learned that patient triage is one of their major jobs, and that the process begins right in your call to the clinic. How urgent is the situation? How soon does the patient need to be seen? Carolyn and her colleague Marg Kelsey constantly make these decisions. “So, when you phone the clinic and think you’re talking to a secretary,” says Dr. Lynn Wilson, “you’re not. You’re talking to a nurse. The only secretary in our clinic is me” (as the administrator of the five-practice Rural Kingston Family Health Care Network).
By contrast, the only hospital nurses who do this kind of triage are emergency specialists. Carolyn also explained that certain medical procedures can be formally delegated from the doctor to her nurse. Such things as the diagnosis of and prescribing for clear-cut syndromes like cystitis can be done completely by the registered family practice nurse, and it looks like much more of this kind of assessment will be possible in the near future. And guess what? Family practice nurses are also in short supply, so the health services committee has to put that on its list of things to monitor!
Although we’re some way from assuring all the needs of Verona’s health care future, the news from this meeting is positive. The strong commitment from Drs. Dempsey and Wilson and their whole team, coupled with the dedication of the Health Services Committee, particularly chairman John McDougall, give hope that we will not be left behind in the scramble to keep our rural family practice viable.