"The system we are offering is just for doctors to come in and go to work," said Keith Rodway, who celebrated the official opening of his latest business venture last week.
The Clarenville Medical Arts Centre has operated in Clarenville for rver 30 years. The centre has been renovated to accommodate 10 full time physicians, a goal Rodway is working toward in cooperation with Eastern Health and Memorial University Medical School.
Rodway said his decision to buy a medical clinic came about after asking questions of Clarenville’s ability to attract family physicians.
“Today is a result of asking the question, ‘is there a physician recruitment problem in this town?’ We found the need is bad and getting worse,” Rodway said at the opening last Thursday, which was attended by health minister Susan Sullivan and MHA Ross Wiseman.
The system differs from traditional clinics in that it takes the business element of running a clinic out of the hands of physicians and puts it into the hands of business people; in this case, Keith and Kelley Rodway.
Rodway explains under his setup the doctors don’t have to worry about the business of running the business anymore. They don’t have to recruit physicians, hire staff or make sure the parking lot is cleared of snow.
Rodway said when it came to recruiting doctors, few medical schools graduates want to work in a clinic where they are also responsible for booking patients and handling billing procedures. Instead, they simply wanted to focus on medicine.
Part of the recruitment process involved remodeling the 30-year old facility and designing a clinic that doctors want to work in.
Currently, the centre has four physicians, two of which arrived in the past year. Doctors Harold Crewe and Allan O’Reilly, who sold the clinic to Rodway, each have about 4,000 patient files. Rodway hopes that as he finds more doctors to work at the clinic, the patient-load for each doctor will drop to a more manageable level.
Currently, he said, patients have to wait up to two weeks to get to see either O'Reilly or Crewe.
"More doctors in a clinic gives a patient more options, but also gives doctors and the clinic more options."
The two newer doctors, meanwhile, are accepting new patients.
That's one of the immediate challenges for his new business, said Rodway, getting the word out to the public that the Medical Arts Clinic has doctors who are available to take new patients.
"People have for so long without a family doctor that some of them have stopped looking. The challenge we have is to educate the patients, that they have options. Our goal is to start creating a waitlist, and that's another tool in the chest to help attract more doctors.”
'This is the way health care needs to be delivered in rural Canada." - Keith Rodway - Keith Rodway
Health minister Sullivan congratulated the Rodways on their endeavor and said this type of health care model could stand to benefit all regions on the province.
“This kind of organization is innovative. The physicians who are working here no longer have to worry about the business end of health care, they can focus instead on providing health care. I would hope we are going to see more of this across the province.”
The minister said the Rodway's venture, as well as Killick Health Services in Grand-Falls, are examples of progressive models for health care which should provide incentive for new physicians to take up residency in clinics in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.
The Killic Health Centre operates on a similar model. In that case, seven doctors banded together and hired a business manager to oversee the paperwork for them.
“It’s about understanding health care is the responsibility of everyone and not just the physician, so the more we can see this kind of health care, the more supported physicians feel and the higher the opportunity for recruitment and retention.”
Under Rodway’s business model, doctors will still be paid under the fee-for-service structure of the Medical Care Plan (MCP).
The difference is, where individual doctors would bill MCP at the end of the month for services given, the centre will handle the billing paperwork for the doctors. MCP will still deposit into the accounts of the physicians who will then pay the centre a fee – a rental fee essentially – for use of the clinic space and support services.
Meanwhile, as owner of the business, Rodway takes on the other work associated with operating a business and a large building — from hiring support staff and recruiting new doctors, to purchasing office supplies and making sure light bulbs are replaced.
Rodway said the coming together of business and health services creates a higher level of accessibility and health care for patients.
"I really believe this is the way health care needs to be delivered in rural Canada," said Rodway. "I don't know how to drain an ear, but I do know how to deal with staff and human resources."
Ultimately, he said, this setup will eventually provide patients with better access to doctors and give those doctors a better quality of work life.