Friday, January 16, 2009

Thousands of Prince Rupert residents soon to be looking for a doctor

The pending closure of the Green clinic is perhaps the final tipping point that will bring some resolution to the current medical crisis in this community, though once it closes its doors at the end of February, the short term pain may be almost unbearable to bear, while we wait for any gain.

With but one doctor remaining at the clinic, the work load has become far too much for the remaining practitioner Dr. Herman Greeff, and he regretably has advised the long list of patients that once called the Green Clinic their medical home that he must close its doors.

Dr. Greeff has chosen to concentrate his practice on those patients that are currently battling cancer through the Cancer unit at the Prince Rupert Regional Hospital and while he's aware of the hardship that his decision will bring to many patients at the Green clinic, there's really not much more he can do with the time constraints he faces.

The problem is indicative of the growing problem in Prince Rupert, which has seen a number of doctor's positions go unfilled locally as the economy stagnated and the population dropped, that and the competitive nature for physicians in BC has left this city in a growing bind, with many of the city's residents now having to use the city's emergency ward at PRRH as their family physician, a situation that is more short term maintenance than a long term solution.
City Council addressed the issue at their most recent council meeting, the upcoming closure of the clinic should only accentuate those concerns and provide more evidence that the system is in peril locally and needs to be addressed.

The Daily News outlined the background of the health care situation today and in particular how the closure of the Green clinic may prove to be the clarion call to action for the community.

Up to 3,000 people may soon be without a family doctor's services
The Daily News
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Pages one and three

Patients have been getting their needs met at 501 McBride Avenue for years. On Feb. 29, 2009, the last patient will walk out of that door and will be soon followed by resident doctor Herman Greeff.

It's not what anyone in Prince Rupert wants. Certainly it isn't what Dr Greeff wants, either. But it is a reflection of the troubled medical care for northern rural communities living in the North.

"There is a bit of a struggle. The clinic still belongs to the late Dr Coburn's estate, so if the clinic is closing, I don't think it's going to re-open," said Dr Greeff.

Dr Greeff estimated that once the Green Clinic shuts its doors forever it will leave 2,OOO-to-3,OOO people without a family doctor.

It will also leave a receptionist without a job.

And it has placed resident nurse, Toby Hinton, in limbo.

A quick look around the clinic and it is plain to the eye that the facility is everything a community could want for a family doctor.

There are several examinations rooms and an assistant's table within earshot should a doctor need help.

There is a spacious, functional operation room where doctors could administer stitches and small procedures if necessary.

Just over a year ago, there were six doctors operating out of the clinic.

Now its just Dr Greeff who is left and soon there will be none.

Each doctor had his or her own reason for checking out.

The biggest reason why some doctors left was because opportunities opened up down south.

And the passing of Dr Harris Coburn, a recruiting wizard for Prince Rupert and the clinic's mainstay, was as big a loss as any.

"I think the Green Clinic recruited most of the doctors to Prince Rupert. Currently, 30 per cent of the family doctors working in Prince Rupert were recruited by Dr Coburn," said Greeff.

The row-up on-row of patient files in the office is immense and the caseload has become too much for Dr Greef to bear.

His plan, for now, is to stay in Prince Rupert for the medium term but anything beyond five years is too far away to see.

"The only reason 1 took on cancer care is that it was something that I enjoy doing. It's a group of patients that if you are going to target somebody that you want to carry through all their treatment are cancer patients. I have a lot of patients with chronic illnesses that I would like to look after as well but I just felt I couldn't leave the cancer patients in the middle of their treatments," said Dr Greef.

He said it also helped him make the decision to focus on his cancer patients because of cancer services made available at the Prince Rupert Regional Hospital.

Of course, closing down the clinic will have an impact not just on Dr Greef but also on the whole city.

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