The East End Family Health Team serves around 1,600 patients, as well as Northern College students, and they recently learned that Northern College is planning to upgrade the team.
In a Nov. 5 press release, the college said:
“The retirement of some existing health staff has provided an opportunity to implement changes to deliver and expand care.”
However, some patients said the message was different from what they heard at the end of September. It was then that they received a letter from Dr. David Houston in which he said he was resigning, not retiring.
“This is one of the hardest decisions of my life…I will only be scheduling appointments through November 30,” Houston wrote.
Tom Dolanjski, pharmacist and founding member of the team, said he was forced to leave.
“I didn’t leave of my own volition and that was one of the things that was initially said, that it was mutual action, and that was by no means the case,” Dolanjski told CTV. News.
Another former team member who asked to remain anonymous told CTV News:
“Since February, several unilateral decisions regarding patient care have been made at the clinic without consultation. The team has always been dedicated to providing patients with collaborative care, but unfortunately the clinic no longer allowed it. Me, with six other members of the team left, not because we wanted to, but because we had no other choice.”
The patients say the team is “destroyed” and they are worried.
“It’s multi-faceted, so it’s dealing with patients with complex issues that need everyone on the team to get that right outcome for that particular patient,” said patient Ann Mallows.
Daryl Firlotte, another patient, said he felt “high and dry”. Firlotte said he had two sets of prescriptions from Houston.
“After they run out, I’ll have to call the clinic and see what arrangements they’re going to make or I’ll have to find a doctor on my own – and the doctors are running out,” he said.
Northern College said its president does not directly oversee the operations of the East End Family Health Team, but at the moment she is the only member to comment on the situation.
Aware of personnel changes
“It’s part of the team movement and the overall movement of talent in institutions,” said Audrey Penner, president of Northern College.
The Department of Health said it was aware of the recent personnel changes. In an email to CTV News, Bill Campbell, media relations in the Department of Health’s communications division, wrote:
“Family Health Teams (FHTs) are independent corporations governed by boards of directors and funded by the Department of Health through an accountability agreement. The Ministry does not play any role or intervene in FHT employee-employer relationships or in physician decisions related to the management of their medical practices.
“The ministry is aware of recent staffing changes at ESF East End. The ministry has met regularly with the college and has been assured that steps are being taken to ensure they can deliver the necessary programs and services to patients while recruiting nurse practitioners and a new doctor is underway.”
“We were looking at having two doctors there,” Penner added. “So now three of them are interested and in addition there is a fourth doctor who might be interested, but time will tell. If patients have any concerns, we encourage them to contact the East End Family Health Team directly.
And in an email to CTV News on Monday, Penner declined an interview but wrote:
“While there have been some staff changes at EEHFT, we are grateful for the contributions of those who have brought us to this point and are working diligently to prepare the clinic for a new phase in its history. However , we can say that there are currently no vacancies, some positions are in fact under consideration as the needs since the demand has been low for specific services.