Doctors at the Keewatin Medical Clinic demonstrate against the city

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In a region that is already so overwhelmed by a shortage of doctors, the recent news of the city of Kenora’s interest in divesting Keewatin Medical Clinic came as a shock to most of the community.

The public became aware of the situation after the city of Kenora launched a public call for expressions of interest to divest the Keewatin Medical Clinic.

Construction of the Keewatin Medical Clinic was completed in 1985 after the culmination of community efforts by Keewatin residents who successfully raised 50% of the project cost. Funding was then matched by the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund to complete funding.

Upon completion of construction, the Keewatin City Corporation acquired the property and signed an agreement with founding physician Dr. Waldy Loewen, to lease the property, as well as return to the city the amount the citizens raised.

In 1992 the repayment of the original fundraising contribution was completed. The building continued to be leased to the doctors who worked there.

Keewatin Medical Clinic serves approximately 2,500 citizens of Kenora and Keewatin and is the only “cradle-to-grave service” according to Dr. Joel Kroeker, one of the doctors working at the clinic. This was said during a deposition at Kenora City Council at the last Whole Meeting Committee on June 7.

“From midwifery management, including cesarean delivery, lifelong care, including care for our own patients in the hospital, and end-of-life care, including care in long-term care facilities and palliative care.”

“Our physicians embody the diverse skill set unique to rural specialists and provide a spectrum of services to the community (and not just limited to our clinic patients), including cancer chemotherapy, minor surgery, ER care, hospital care, , advanced diagnostic testing, interpretation, and obstetric care for patients in other practices”.

The Doctor. Kroeker noted that Keewatin’s medical team is the only clinic in the area to provide this level of service and continuity.

It’s been proven year after year that Keewatin Medical Clinic creates and houses fantastic doctors. Dr. Tim Wehner was recognized as Ontario Family Physician of the Year and Dr. Shannon Wiebe was recognized this year’s Ontario Rural Emergency Physician of the Year.

The Keewatin Clinic has proven to be an effective training and recruitment facility for Kenora. Of the 15 doctors currently in Kenora with family practices, 8 were trained at Keewatin Medical Clinic as students or residents. Keewatin Medical Clinic works with the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) to help train future doctors.

“We are from Kenora and we are committed to serving Kenora. Two of us were born and raised in Kenora and trained at the Keewatin clinic. The other two made this our home, raised families here and have lived here for over 20 years,” Kroeker said.

“Our clinic has been a model of stability, with no unexpected vendor turnover for the past 20 years. However, our stability is not guaranteed and is now at risk. Even the prospect of our building being sold has been destabilizing, as it has created uncertainty for our patients, staff and providers.”

The doctors emphasized that the privatization of the Keewatin Medical Clinic Building would only create more pressure on the clinic’s staff and patients, creating the perpetual risk of the building’s purpose being lost.

Many saw this city move as a mixed message, after years of public outcry for more GPs in the area, why threaten the medical service of 2,500 additional residents?

“The building was built for the sole purpose of serving citizens as a project initiated by the people, and we believe there is at least an ethical and moral obligation on the part of City Hall to act as a butler in this to ensure that clinic patients can be assured that they will be able to access medical care there, as they have since the day it opened.”

At the end of the statement, the Doctors shared multiple solutions that, in their view, would satisfy everyone’s needs.

“Our first choice would be to simply maintain the status quo. We are happy to have the city as our landlord. The city could retain ownership of this property and would be seen as a progressive, modern community that values ​​health care. We would continue to rent the building and provide services there.”

“The second option would be to follow a process analogous to what was done with another clinic in Kenora, to transfer the building to an existing or new non-profit corporation to take over management of the asset.”

To conclude the remarks, Kroeker made a powerful statement: “No matter what the outcome, the four of us wanted to be able to look our patients in the eye and tell them that we stand up for them today, and whatever the city’s decision, it’s been made with all relevant information available to them.”

The City has not yet commented on the fate of the building.

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