September 30, 2020

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Questionable logic behind clinic closure

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 4/8/2017 (1153 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Opinion

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA) announced on July 11 the closing of four QuickCare clinics and the Corydon Primary Care Clinic at 1001 Corydon Ave.

The stated reason was to save money.

As reported in the Free Press, the WRHA claims that closing the Corydon clinic and "subletting the space" will save $498,906 in the current fiscal year ending March 31, 2018.

This can’t be true: $498,906 is the annual rent the WRHA pays for the clinic on the main floor and office space on the second floor.

The clinic won’t be closing for several months. Obviously the current rent has to be paid.

So how could the savings be $498,906 for this fiscal year?

Staff at the clinic have told me the original lease was recently renewed for the next five years.

I’ve consulted with a licensed commercial real estate agent and he confirmed, as everyone acknowledges, that the current rent is very expensive (probably more than two times market value).

The WHRA will not be able to sublet the space at its current rent.

Either it will remain empty for the next four and a half years, meaning there will be no savings or — at best — the WRHA will have to subsidize a new sub-tenant, likely to the tune of at least $250,000 per year.

The WRHA has promised that the entire staff of six physicians, two nurse practitioners, four nurses and all the support staff will move to a recently built clinic already operating at 135 Plaza Dr., near Pembina Avenue and Bishop Grandin Boulevard.

The cost of moving and/or replacing the equipment, transferring the files and getting everything set up at Plaza Drive will be significant.

The WRHA conveniently forgot to include this cost in the calculation of its bogus savings.

The physicians and nurse practitioners have been told they may have to double up at Plaza Drive in terms of office space and examination rooms. They say nobody at Corydon Avenue or Plaza Drive has been told how the move is actually going to work.

As stupid as all of this sounds, it pales in significance to the terrible impact the closure will have on patients.

A physician at the clinic estimated that it tends to the needs of about 5,000 patients.

Many of these patients are elderly or vulnerable, with complex needs.

They either live in proximity to the Corydon clinic or have followed their physicians for the benefit of continuity.

The benefit of community-based clinics has been spelled out in the WRHA’s Primary Health Care Operational Guidelines.

These guidelines identify seven community areas, defined by postal codes, each with its own community clinic.

The clinic at 1001 Corydon Ave. is the only such clinic being closed.

I guess all those noble principles apply only to the patients of the remaining six community clinics.

The 5,000 patients are being told they will have to go to Access Fort Garry. A Google search confirms that, using Pembina Highway, 135 Plaza Dr. is 5.8 kilometres from 1001 Corydon Ave. Two or three buses will have to be taken along a route that’s constantly jammed up because of construction.

For those who drive — or get rides — it will be a nightmare. A five- or 10-minute trip will now take half an hour or worse in rush hour.

Can you imagine an 85-year-old patient with complex needs, having to see his/her physician every two or three weeks? Instead of walking or taking a simple car or bus ride to Corydon, the patient will now have to negotiate the way to 135 Plaza Dr.

Now imagine this scenario when it’s -40 C in January.

The decision to close the clinic was made without consultation with the dedicated health-care professionals at the clinic or any of its patients.

In effect, the WRHA, Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen and Premier Brian Pallister are telling staff and patients, "We don’t care what you think or how much you will suffer because of this."

Somebody has to provide a voice for those who can’t or are unable to speak out. This decision is wrong, deceitful and arrogant. The alleged savings would not stand up to independent scrutiny.

The human costs are immense.

Premier Brian Pallister, the buck stops with you. Do the right thing. Keep the Corydon Primary Care Clinic open.

Alex Arenson is a lawyer and a patient of the Corydon Primary Care Clinic.

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