Family health team needs $100,000 municipal loan to finish office space


By Barb McKay


Kincardine’s family health team is looking for help from the municipality to get its offices up and running after delays pushed the operational start date back by six months.


Gerry Glover, executive director of the family health team (FHT), attended Kincardine council’s meeting last Wednesday to ask the municipality to sign a five-year lease agreement for the team to occupy the basement of the Kincardine Community Medical Clinic. Glover also requested, on behalf of the FHT, a short-term, interest-free loan for $100,000 to complete renovations to the basement to accommodate the team. The loan would be repaid over a five-year period.


Glover said he had expected to have the FHT in place months ago.


“I’ve been here for four months and we’ve been dealing with progressive delays,” he said, adding that he had hoped to have the FHT operating by Sept. 1, 2011.


Aside from the lengthy process for hiring qualified health professionals for the team, the start date for the team was further delayed when an inspection of the medical clinic basement last September turned up moisture in the flooring. The municipality is currently looking for a contractor to replace the flooring.


Glover said the FHT is choosing to work with the municipality, rather than laying blame, to ensure problems do not occur again. He said he and health team directors have been meeting with local contractors and hope to have the renovations completed in time to move the team into its office space by March 31.


Currently, the team consists of a clinical pharmacist, Patricia McKechnie; a social worker, Jennifer Rapley; an occupational therapist, Pam Rantz; two registered nurses, Janette Diebel and Rhonda Walsh; Sue Doupe, financial administrator; Mandy Van Hardeveld, executive assistant; and Glover. Nurse practitioner and health educator positions have yet to be filled. The FHT is to provide physicians support through health professionals who will provide a number of services, including counselling, medication review, fall assessment, in-home assessment and a preventative diabetic program.


Glover told council members that contrary to what they were told back in the spring of 2011, that the team could pay as much as $24 per square foot per month to lease the office space at the clinic, in actual fact, the province would only fund $13 per square foot on a monthly basis.


He said the Kincardine FHT is considered a small team and lease rates for similar sized health teams average $11 to $15 per square foot per month, and $24 per square foot is actually the maximum allotment the province will give FHT to rent office space. Family health teams are registered non-profit organizations and rely on provincial funding, donations and grants to operate. Glover explained that the drafted lease agreement also calls for utilities, landscaping and snow removal to be included in the monthly lease rate. The lease would amount to $2,383 per month, or roughly $28,500 per year.


Council members expressed disappointment that the municipality would receive a little more than half of what it anticipated receiving for monthly lease payments, but were even less impressed that the health team asked for an interest-free loan. The municipality would have to borrow against itself to provide the loan and would have to pay interest.


“I’m all in favour of making out a loan to get this going, but to be fair to the ratepayers, I think it should be at cost,” said mayor Larry Kraemer.


Glover said the reason the team is asking for an interest-free loan is because the FHT’s funding requirements fall under the province’s “Tier 2” funding level, between $10,000 and $100,000. If the team was required to pay interest on the loan it would push it into the province’s “Tier 3” threshold, which would require additional approvals from the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and would require the team to issue a request for proposal for contractors to do the renovations. The additional workload would delay the team by another nine to 12 months, said Glover.


Councillor Ron Coristine said the province’s cookie-cutter funding formula doesn’t work in the real world and that Kincardine’s needs are just as important as those of FHTs in urban centres. He asked if there is any point in trying to speak with representatives from the Ministry of Health.


“Is there any recourse to talk to them so they can treat us like other human beings?” he asked.


Glover said he would see if he could negotiate with the Ministry to increase the lease payments to $14 or $15 per square foot per month to offset the interest on the loan from the municipality. He said rates could be further increased in the future.


As the FHT waits for renovations to be completed to the medical clinic basement, Glover said, team members who have been hired are working in tandem with the Kincardine Community Medical Clinic and are working on a rotating schedule to make sure patients have access to services. Patients can receive referrals from their family physicians for FHT services or self-refer if they do not have a family doctor.


Councillor Mike Leggett said he recalled council approving funding for two registered nurses to train to become nurse practitioners and wondered if they had been contacted about the position. Mayor Larry Kraemer said an update would be provided to council during a closed session.


Glover said the FHT is exploring all avenues to attract a nurse practitioner to the team, because the position is a crucial element of the team. He said it’s challenging to fill the position given the amount of funding that is allocated by the province and the fact that the FHT has to compete with larger urban health care centres.


Council will give the lease agreement for senior staff to review and discuss it again during a council meeting in the near future.

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