A Victoria health-care clinic created for seniors who don’t have a family doctor is losing all of its physicians after a contract dispute with the Vancouver Island Health Authority.
The Health Point Care Centre — housed within the Hillside Seniors Health Centre on Hillside Avenue — has notified almost 1,800 patients that they are losing the clinic’s four part-time family doctors as of June 1.
The physicians and the health authority are in a monetary dispute. The two sides agree on at least one thing: Doctors would have to see more patients to take home the same income under the new contract terms.
In the interim, VIHA will provide locum services and try to recruit new doctors to the clinic. The facility was founded in 2004 to cater to patients 55 years and older with complex needs — chronic disease to palliative care — who do not currently have a family doctor. Its catchment includes the area east of Douglas Street and south of McKenzie Avenue.
The doctors who are leaving have not yet decided where they will go or what they will do — they say they only know they couldn’t accept the changes VIHA wanted.
Patient Andrew Clark, 81, of Fernwood said the news “came as a complete shock.” He and his wife Moira, 75, have been going to the clinic for seven years. “We’re oldies — we don’t like getting shuffled around,” Clark said.
Sharon Esher, 71, and her husband Ewald, 75, are equally disappointed. When they arrived in Victoria from Prince George about five years ago, they found it impossible to find a family doctor — the doctors who were accepting patients wanted only young families, Sharon said.
The couple expects VIHA to have a hard time finding replacements.
“It’s kind of a blow,” said Sharon. “Who knows what will happen? We were very pleased with the medical care we received there.”
Doctors Nena Edmunds, Fiona Manning, Tess Hammett and Jill Norris handed their notice of termination to VIHA Feb. 22. Patients were sent letters dated Feb. 27. Norris said the departures were “unplanned and unexpected but necessary to do given what was presented to us by VIHA … a significant income decrease and significant change in practice style that we were not comfortable with.”
The doctors were originally hired under a service contract with a mandate to take on more challenging complex-care patients, Norris said.
In 2010, that contract was changed to a fee-for-service arrangement.
Norris said the doctors have been finding efficiencies and doing more, but it hasn’t been enough for VIHA, which she said wants to boost its revenue by increasing the number of patients the doctors see in a day. “It’s very disappointing for us and we’re all concerned about the effects on the patients,” Norris said.
Health Point manager Cal Tant said the health authority is asking the doctors for a “slight increase” in overhead costs — mostly the cost of two registered nurses, three medical office assistants and a nurse practitioner — provided by VIHA.
As a percentage of their gross income, the doctors would be paying “substantially less” in overhead than what they would pay if they were operating their own clinic without VIHA, Tant said.
He agreed that with the increase in overhead costs, the doctors would have to see more patients to get the same level of remuneration on an hourly basis. “They provide a very good service,” said Tant, who is optimistic the health authority can find other doctors.
Because the four physicians did not work full time, the clinic may not need to recruit four people.
© Copyright 2013