There are differing opinions on the doctor recruitment situation in Casselman. Last week, in its June 20 edition, The Review published a story where Dr. Christie Diekmeyer, who has been practicing at the village’s medical clinic on a temporary basis shared her concerns over the shortage of doctors at the facility and the need for the community to recruit more. There are currently three physicians at the clinic, and Dr. Diekmeyer has been filling in for Dr. Pat Arenas, who has been on leave.
Jennifer Arenas, who is the Office Manager of the Casselman Medical Centre and is Dr. Arenas’ daughter, had several concerns with the opinions of Casselman Mayor Conrad Lamadeleine who had been interviewed for the previous story.
“We have been continually trying to recruit new physicians,” Jennifer Arenas said, in disagreement with the Mayor’s claim that efforts have not been strong in recent years. As an example, she said Dr. Jude Sunjoh has been at the clinic for five years and plans to stay on long-term. The clinic is also using the services of two recruitment firms and is advertising for doctors at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Medicine. Jennifer Arenas noted that using recruitment firms is “not cheap.”
Ontario Ministry of Health criteria for needs assessment and funding are part of the problem Casselman is facing, according to Jennifer Arenas. To qualify to have a doctor come from Health Force Ontario and serve for a short term to meet local needs, a municipality must have a Rurality Index for Ontario (RIO) score of 40. Those are developed using variables such as population density and the amount of time patients would have to travel to referral centres to see specialists, which would be Ottawa in most cases for Casselman residents. Casselman’s RIO score is 39. Jennifer Arenas said the problem is that Casselman is a small-village municipality and 65 percent of the patients at its medical clinic live outside of it, most in The Nation Municipality, and not in the municipality upon which the ministry is basing eligibility. She added that the village council has not done anything to persuade the Ministry of Health to reconsider the factors that affect Casselman’s RIO score.
Mayor Lamadeleine had stated that the clinic should consider greater profit-sharing among its physicians as an incentive to attract new ones. Dr. Pat Arenas owns the clinic. Jennifer Arenas explained that the doctors at the facility are self-employed and not hired by the clinic. They pay an overhead rate to the clinic to practice there. In a way, it’s like a barber renting a chair in a shop owned by another barber.
According to Jennifer Arenas, in 2007 the clinic was threatened with closure when its previous owner left. That is when Dr. Pat Arenas stepped in and took ownership to keep it open. She added that municipal assistance was promised at one point for some equipment upgrades but council voted not to proceed.
“This is a service we’re offering to the community,” Jennifer Arenas said. She emphasized the facility is modern and has a great deal to offer patients and any physician who would like to practice there. Casselman Medical Centre offers complete laboratory services. A general surgeon from the hospital in Hawkesbury regularly holds consultations with patients at the facility to minimize their need to travel. The Casselman Medical Centre is also located close to the exit from Highway 417.
In response to their disagreements over the doctor recruitment situation in Casselman, Jennifer Arenas said she met with Mayor Conrad Lamadeleine earlier this week and they were able to clear some of them up. In the previous story in the June 20, 2018 edition of The Review, the mayor stated that there were once 17 new graduates from the University of Ottawa who were once considering practicing in Casselman, but none were hired. However, that particular situation existed under the clinic’s previous ownership before Dr. Pat Arenas took control of the facility in 2007.
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