The last speaker scheduled for the Morrisburg & District Canadian Club 2012-13 season, drew a full and interested house on Wednesday, May 15, at the Morrisburg Legion.
Speaker Wayne Domanko, a partner at the St. Lawrence Medical Clinic, a university lecturer and researcher, has been a doctor in the area and at Winchester District Memorial Hospital for many years. Dr. Domanko has served on numerous hospital committees, but has also devoted much time and effort to activities and projects in the South Dundas community over the years.
In his presentation to Canadian Club, he traced the history and origins of the St. Lawrence Medical Clinic, then examined the current challenges and concerns inherent in ensuring ongoing quality rural medicine in the years ahead. He remained optimistic about the future of health care in this area, stressing that the Clinic (in its two new facilities) will continue to be a vital part of the lives of all patients and their families.
An accomplished speaker, Dr. Domanko spent a few moments talking about how he, a young man from Saskatchewan (“where you see the sunsets through the cows’ legs!”), ended up in Eastern Ontario.
“I met Gerry Rosenquist at the University of Ottawa, and he basically convinced my wife and me to come to Morrisburg for ‘one little year’. Well, that was 44 years ago. We are proud members of this caring and compassionate community.”
The St. Lawrence Medical Clinic was established in 1960 and “has flourished for 55 years.” It was built on the principles of all encompassing care for patients, on collegial support, a fair sharing of the workload and a guarantee of continuous learning. The ties to Winchester District Memorial Hospital are very strong.
However, Dr. Domanko told the audience, the struggle to attract new physicians to what is essentially a rural area, is a tough one. While 2,500 new doctors graduated from Canadian schools in 2010, and a further 4,000 are enrolled in international medical schools, only about 16 per cent of those graduates will choose to become family doctors practising in rural areas.
The competition to attract and hire these few willing doctors can sometimes be fierce.
“Many larger communities literally have recruiting teams out there. And these larger areas can often offer incentives that smaller areas like us cannot.” He had the crowd laughing when, tongue in cheek, he remarked that “Paul Coolican and I go to Recruiting Fairs with a bushel of MacIntosh apples.”
While he made it clear that the experience of doing their rural training at St. Lawrence and WDMH is a very positive one for medical students, and stressed that people in our community are always very welcoming to the future doctors, the struggle to recruit remains a tough one.
Young doctors coming into a rural area face more demands on their time (most St. Lawrence doctors carry a patient load of 2,000), less access to specialists and more travel. They expect collegial support, “and, this is often a key, they want jobs for their spouses.”
The St. Lawrence Clinic, which will be utilizing new, upgraded space in both the former Morrisburg High School, and in the former St. Cecilia’s School in Iroquois, has great potential for both doctors and patients.
“These sites are spacious, providing much more privacy for patients and doctors. They will allow us to set up ancillary services such as addiction counselling. We actually have four new associates coming to join us. The new clinics also provide teaching facilities,” Dr. Domanko said.
The Clinic carries a payroll well in excess of $1 million, and pays taxes. Each facility purchases its own furniture, equipment and medical supplies. In 2009-10, the South Dundas council purchased the Clinic properties, thereby easing some financial issues. “The doctors have made a commitment to the community, too,” Domanko said. “We have signed a 20 year lease.”
With LHIN (Champlain Local Health Integration Network) now co-ordinating health services, and stressing that those services be well organized, appropriately funded and meet the needs of residents of all ages, the whole issue of health care remains under intense scrutiny.
However, despite the challenges, and the reality that finances are probably going to get tighter in the years ahead, Dr. Domanko stressed that the St.