WomensHealth future at risk

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

The WomensHealth Clinic of London

Jonas Hrebeniuk

WELCOME GYNO BUCKEROOS! TEMPORARILY... The WomensHealth Clinic of London, located on the corner of Dundas and Colborne streets, may have to close due to a lack of government funding.

The WomensHealth clinic of London may be shutting its doors soon.

The clinic, located at the intersection of Dundas and Colborne St., has been treating women for 10 years and currently sees over 24,000 patients, but it may soon close due to Ontario Government health policy reform.

“We don’t get adequate funding to keep the place going,” Dr. Elizabeth Smith, one of the 12 doctors at the clinic, said. She said neither the municipal nor the provincial governments will help them out.

Deb Matthews, MPP for London-North Centre, insisted she has been doing her best to help the clinic. “They’re a very unusual model,” she said. “We’re working to find solutions.”

Dr. Smith is frustrated with new policies that are leaving clinics like WomensHealth in trouble.

The new model, called capitation, pays doctors a standard fee for each registered patient based on age and health status. “We are encouraging physicians to move away from the fee-for-service model,” Matthews explained.

Because WomensHealth only serves patients on a needs basis, they aren’t eligible for capitation.

“In [the government’s] wisdom, they have decided this is how the money should be handed out,” Smith said.

Matthews said the new policies aim to improve the health system. “We’re providing incentives for physicians to move to family health teams,” Matthews said.

These policies are part of primary care reform initiatives undertaken by the government since 2001.

“You get financial bonuses if you practice according to provincial guidelines,” Smith explained. Doctors receive bonuses from the government for recruiting patients and angling their practices towards family environments.

WomensHealth is a clinic specifically for treating women’s health issues thus most bonuses don’t apply to their specialized practice.

“What we do is a specialty practice, but we’re only getting basic funding,” Smith said.

WomensHealth was prepared to close its doors by October, but thanks to London citizen Don Edwards, the clinic is still putting up a fight. He recently became interested in their cause and began to phone various community members.

When asked about his involvement, Edwards simply responded with praise for WomensHealth and added he had a wonderful mother and grandmother. “I believe unconditionally in the doctors at WomensHealth.” Edwards said. “They’re wonderful professionals.”

The extra help from the community is allowing the clinic more time, but things still remain uncertain.

“It’s a work in progress,” Edwards admitted. Although he wouldn’t identify the community members, he has confidence in the private group backing the clinic. “We have a very dynamic and interesting group of people.”

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