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Chilliwack doctor says Ministry of Health to blame for clinic staffing issues

Ralph Jones disagrees with a physician colleague pointing the finger at Fraser Health
Dr. Ralph Jones pictured on March 17, 2011. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)

A former lead physician with the Chilliwack Division of Family Practice (CDFP) says the B.C. Ministry of Health, and not Fraser Health, is to blame for the hiring woes at the new Chilliwack Primary Care Centre (PCC).

Since opening in May, the clinic has been unable to recruit any new doctors to work there, even as four physicians and several nurse practitioners working at the old PCC at Chilliwack General Hospital (CGH) are leaving.

A doctor who agreed to speak to The Progress on the condition of anonymity, suggested Fraser Health’s negotiating tactics are one reason.

A loss of autonomy with Fraser Health taking on oversight of the PCC from the CDFP is another.

But Ralph Jones takes exception with putting the blame entirely on Fraser Health.

“Fraser Health has no choice but to obey orders from the Ministry of Health,” he explained. “During the period of transfer of responsibility for the new clinic from CDFP to Fraser Health, the Ministry of Health has been totally inflexible.”

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By that, Jones said the ministry has an inflexible philosophy and model that they insist on applying, even when it doesn’t fit with the needs of Chilliwack’s population of patients and healthcare practitioners.

Jones was the lead physician when the PCC was first established at CGH a decade ago.

He said it was created to serve people who couldn’t find a family doctor and too often ended up in the emergency room or admitted to hospital. He said the PCC was “spectacularly successful.”

The clinic soon took on more, providing temporary care for any patients without a family doctor until they could find one.

That was less successful, but he said the partnership with Fraser Health has always been a good one.

“From the initiation to the expansion of the PCC, we partnered closely with Fraser Health,” Jones said. “We developed a collaborative, trusting and collegial relationship, particularly with the local leadership. We continue to work in a collaborative and collegial relationship with Fraser Health on many projects including primary care networks, hospital care and emergency planning.”

So what’s the solution?

In Jones’ opinion, there’s no easy fix.

“The physicians have already made other arrangements and joined, or are joining other practices in town,” he said. “In my opinion, restoring reasonable local autonomy to the administration of the clinic would be a first step. Whether this involves renewing the partnership between the Chilliwack Division of Family Practice and Fraser Health, or some other arrangement, I can only speculate.”


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Eric Welsh

About the Author: Eric Welsh

I joined the Chilliwack Progress in 2007, originally hired as a sports reporter.
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