The health board in Moose Factory is reacting with caution to a proposal by the Timmins Hospital to deal with a serious shortage of doctors in the coastal communities of Muskegowuck.
As good as the intentions are, the Weeneebayko Health Board is saying the proposal is short on details and leaves questions unanswered about who will pay for the plan.
The plan was introduced during a visit by officials of the Timmins and District Hospital to the communities in January to hear local concerns. They said they would provide more medical services to Muskegowuck, such as more frequent medical visits, and provide a choice for northern patients to go to Timmins instead of Kingston.
The Moose Factory Hospital is administered by Medical Services of Health and Welfare Canada, and is currently affiliated with Queen’s University and Kingston General for medical services. Most Muskegowuck patients are referred to Kingston as part of a contract with Queen’s University and the Kingston General.
As part of that contract, Kingston has to provide eight doctors fot the Muskegowuck communities. Currently there are only four. This shortfall is what Timmins is proposing to fill.
Dr. Jean Paul Aube, chair of the Timmins Hospital, said the Muskegowuk communities fall within his hospital’s region.
“We’re not in a position to take over what Queen’s University and Kingston General are providing, but complementing,” said Dr. Aube.
Dr. Aube also said Timmins doctors will fulfill the need for medical visits to the communities. Community members now see a doctor only once a month. The Timmins plan would also alleviate the waiting list of patients.
The Timmins hospital will commit to providing four general practitioners to visit the communities. It also wants to work closely with both the Moose Factory Weeneebayko General Hospital and the region’s James Bay General Hospital in helping any way it can.
Fred Hunter, chief executive director of the Weeneebayko Health Board, agrees that it’s a good idea. But he feels the Timmins Hospital’s plan is “overly optimistic” and doesn’t provide details of how Timmins will deliver and fund the services.
“I think they have real good intentions of improving physician coverage, but the problem is there’s no long-term obligation by Timmins or the province,” said Hunter.
He said Timmins needs to consider other factors before promising doctors, like Muskegowuck’s relationship with Kingston, federal responsibility for health services and who will pay.
For one thing, Hunter is worried that Muskegowuck will have to pick up the cost for the extra services.
The Timmins District Hospital and the Weeneebayko Health Board are currently working together to establish a hostel for visiting patients in Timmins and hire a Cree translator.
The health board is set to do a study to look at how all available medical resources in the region could be utilized better to improve health care in the Muskegowuck communities.