The Arcola Family Health Clinic celebrated its first anniversary on May 17. The clinic is owned by a corporation formed by eight neighbouring towns and rural municipalities, and provides essential services to the community and its surrounding area.
With a year under its belt, the corporation has been happy with the results of their volunteer time and efforts. Sheila Sim, a representative for the corporation, said "It's really working. It's unique in Saskatchewan to be operating like this, and it is going really well. The doctors are happy, and they don't have to worry about staffing, and all of those issues. We look after all of that. The clinic itself is owned by the town of Arcola and the RM of Brock. And the corporation provides the services."
The clinic provides these services Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. The clinic is staffed with four full-time doctors, as well as offering chiropractic services once a week, and massage therapy three times a week. In addition, the doctors visit the community of Lampman once a week and Stoughton twice a week.
The idea behind this initiative was to ensure that these critical services remain offered in the area. The clinic was built in May of 2009, with one doctor on hand. Unfortunately, when the doctor left in July of 2009, it created a challenge for the clinic which resulted in its closure in November. On Dec. 1 of that year, the Arcola hospital was closed.
To address the lack of health care provision, a corporation was formed and on May 2, 2010, the first doctor arrived in Arcola. Dr. M. Morin was followed by two additional doctors in July, with the hospital re-opening on Aug. 15, 2010.
The corporation is very happy with the success of the clinic thus far. Sim said "It is growing. You know, we went from 0 doctors to 4 doctors. The way we have it set up is that we want the physicians to see 35 patients a day and not any more than that. That is the idea behind this. We want the physicians to have a life besides this."
Brenda Walter, a representative for the corporation, confirmed this success. "They [the doctors] provide better care to their patients. The doctors are not seeing 60 patients a day, they are only seeing 35. So you get much better care as a patient."
It is obvious that others see the importance of the clinic as well. Two weeks ago, the corporation received news that they would be the recipient of not only one, but two donations. CCS (Canadian Crude Separators) Midstream Services is a new company to Arcola as of just last week. Being new to the area, the company contacted the medical clinic to inquire as to how they could be of assistance. Out of that call, came a $15,000 donation and a challenge to T-45 Oil Corporation to match their donation. The result was two cheques totalling $30,000 presented to the corporation on their first anniversary.
The corporation has yet to sit down as a committee and really decide where the money will be allotted. Walter stated, we are "hoping to add on another office and we are going to buy a pulmonary test machine, and train one of our staff to run it. Then we would be able to run tests for COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and asthma, and those types of things. And to get those tests in Regina, doctors are saying it is a two to three month waiting list. So if we can get that up and running, it will sure help all of the patients in our surrounding area."
The clinic operates under a different mandate than most clinics do. "The main difference is that the corporation owns the clinic. In most circumstances, it is the physicians that own the clinic. And it is not common for physicians to stay for their entire career. So we are aware of that and we are working with it. Here, if a doctor leaves, they don't take their patients files with them. The files stay with the corporation, and therefore, the clinic. Otherwise, the doctor owns the files. So that is an advantage for sure" said Sim.
The largest success was "getting our hospital up and running 24-7. Without doctors, we don't have that. And this is a busy, busy area. Just being able to provide clinic and emergency services would probably be the biggest success. You know, the average waiting time to see a doctor is 24 hours. With Moosomin if you were to go into the walk-in clinic, you would have to wait for eight hours. Estevan is a two to three week waiting period as well," said Sim.
Successes come with a number of challenges as well. Sim said "We have had lots of challenges. Mostly, because it is a new concept. Not many people have done this before. And it is a volunteer group that has established this, so everything is a learning process. Luckily, we have had some great doctors that are aware of all of the procedures. And they like what we are doing and have been helpful in setting up our systems."
"We are still going to have lots of struggles, but there is no doubt in my mind that it will work. Our goal is that the clinic will be self-sufficient. And that will probably take two or three years until we get the patient base. But it will come."
With one year under the corporation's belt, they look towards the future. Walter said "We hope to get bigger, maybe expand to a couple more outposts. Our goal is to keep our clinic at a minimum of three doctors and keep our hospital running. We would like to maybe do some specializing as well. To be able to do testing and provide some of the additional services here would be great."
Recruitment is always a challenge in rural communities. "The government has made it almost impossible to recruit doctors in rural Saskatchewan," said Walter. In order to address this challenge, a recruitment committee has been formed with representatives from Carlyle and Arcola. The committee works at recruiting the doctors, nurses and lab technicians that are required to keep these services offered in the community. The clinic is holding a dinner theatre on June 11 in Arcola to raise money for the recruitment committee. Those interested in tickets can contact Brenda Walter at 455-2500 or Sheila Sim at 577-8222.