Marga Cugnet, Interim CEO of Sun Country Health Region and Murray Goeres, Interim VP of Facilities, were in Coronach on November 18 for a number of meetings, including one with the Triangle News.
Cugnet reported that negotiations have been underway with a physician, who is currently in Saskatchewan, that has shown interest in the position in Coronach.
“There is still a candidate that’s very interested and we are still talking to him and so is the community.” said Cugnet.
After 2 1⁄2 years without a physician, residents, as well as health centre staff, are anxious to secure the services of a physician.
“The staff has done very well in maintaining what services we can provide to the community, we have a very good staff base and we appreciate that.” said Cugnet.
Cugnet said if the physician is secured, the services would be different than the community once offered. Cugnet said the physician would provide primary health services, such as clinic hours but the emergency room at the Coronach Health Centre would not be reopened. “He would still have responsibilities to his own patients that he has within his practice so certainly if he’s in town. . . he would still provide some level of emergency services, for things such as chest pain or a motor vehicle accident. He would be more than willing to be in there for those types of true emergencies.” But, one physician would not be required to cover the requirements of a 24⁄7 emergency room.
Although negotiations with the current physician are optimistic, Cugnet feels that Coronach is nearing a crossroads.
Cugnet reported changes in the licensing for doctors wishing to practice in Canada, making things a bit easier but that the region is still short a number of positions and that recruiting to the rural areas in their biggest challenge.
Cugnet said, “Coronach is in a remote, remote area there is no doubt about it and that doesn’t help with our challenges and how do we provide the services.”
“At some point, we are pretty close (to needing to making other arrangements). We’ve been 2 1⁄2 years without some kind of service here in the community, which is a very extensive length of time,” she said.
Cugnet believes that Coronach is nearing a crossroads where tough decisions may soon need to be made. “(We are close to saying) look it community, it’s been 2 1⁄2 years, it’s been 3 years, I think we need to look at other options. . . the bottom line is the community is not getting basic services. . . How long do you wait?” questioned Cugnet.
“At this point, the community doesn’t feel they want to look at other options, such as looking at other sites coming and providing some services into the community,” said Cugnet.
Cugnet feels that Coronach may need to look at approaching the doctors currently practicing in Assiniboia and Radville to ask them to consider providing some level of service to Coronach, such as the current services provided to Rockglen, Willow Bunch, Bengough and Pangman.
According to Cugnet, those talks have not yet happened. “We haven’t had any direct kind of discussions because of the direction given by the community.” she said.
Community meetings have been held in November of 2008 and July of 2010 and Cugnet feels it may be time for another. “I would like to ask the community, how long do you wait.” concluded Cugnet.
Emergency Medical Services
The group’s first stop was a meeting with Emergency Medical Services staff. Issues with the EMS service in the rural areas have recently been in the news. According to Cugnet, CKRM radio in Regina had reported that Judy Juner, NDP Health Critic, had announced in the provincial legislature the incorrect information that EMS services in three rural places, including Coronach, would be closed.
Cugnet wished to address the untruth of this announcement. “”That’s not true and an error was made in the announcement.” said Cugnet.
EMS staff are currently negotiating their contract. The November 1 issue of the Triangle News included a front page article covering the contract talks. In the article, Coronach ambulance staff member Angela Gent said, “Gent said, “The basic problem with our rural EMS is recruitment and the reason we can’t recruit people is because there really isn’t alot of incentives. We can’t leave town. . . it’s a big commitment for people with kids, ‘cause they don’t want to be tied down. It’s hard to be tied down for $4.12!”
Gent also believes the absence of any kind of health benefits or retirement package is a big deterrent for recruitment.
Cugnet agreed that wages and the lack of full time positions was a stumbling block to recruitment and retention of EMS staff. “ I agree that those are probably some barriers to recruitment and retention and the region is looking at it. Basically, they don’t have a guaranteed wage, so they are only paid when they are out on a call and with the number of calls that are serviced by this site, we can’t afford to have a crew on call (24-7).” According to Cugnet, discussion is underway to consider integrated positions where ambulance staff would work in the health centre, performing duties such as laundry, activities or housekeeping, where they could leave the post empty to go on an ambulance call if needed. Cugnet also talked about discussions with community members in hopes that community businesses would allow their employees to leave their jobs for ambulance calls. “I am hoping that a combination of the community and the region working together will help us recruit a few more people into the service and retain the ones that we have that have been very loyal to this community in providing service.”
Coronach Health Centre
Murray Goeres, Interim VP of Facilities for the region reported that they are currently recruiting for a manager for the Coronach Health Centre to replace the current manager, Barb Tomilin who plans to retire near the end of January, 2011. Goeres reported that they have had a number of candidates and they are currently interviewing and short listing with hopes to have someone in place in the near future.