Anyone who’s had to make an appointment three months in advance to see their family doctor knows full well Fort Frances is facing a severe doctor shortage—a situation that only will get worse if something isn’t done immediately.
It’s been well-documented for more than a year now that the current situation at the Fort Frances Clinic, which is owned by the doctors, is a huge detriment to attracting new physicians to town. Simply put, medical school graduates, already shouldered with a $100,000-plus debt, are loath to go deeper into the hole by having to buy into a clinic to start their career.
While several options have been bandied about over the past year-and-a-half, including interest from a local pharmacist to purchase the clinic from the doctors, the not-for-profit Fort Frances Community Clinic Inc. made a compelling argument at a special meeting Monday night for a community-owned clinic here.
What’s needed to proceed is for town council to approve a $1-million loan to the not-for-profit group to cover the shares of the Fort Frances Clinic holdings and assorted start-up costs—a loan to be paid back over 15 years at zero percent interest.
It’s a request council should approve as quickly as possible.
It’s true that having a community-owned clinic won’t solve the doctor shortage outright. However, by removing the biggest obstacle, it will make recruiting doctors that much easier—which is crucial given the almost cutthroat competition with other communities for a physician’s services.
Pursuing a community-owned clinic here is sailing into uncharted waters to some extent. But it’s a course that should be followed—now—because it’s acutely clear maintaining the status quo is no option.