Alberni health clinic closing but Integrated Health Network staying

The Integrated Health Network is staying put even though the Alberni Medical Clinic is closing in early 2012.

The Integrated Health Network is staying put even though the Alberni Medical Clinic is  closing in early 2012, said IHN dietitian Sandra Gentleman.

The clinic announced the pending closure on Dec. 2.

A lack of doctors precipitated the move, said Bev Denning, president of the Pacific Rim Health Services Co-operative.

The IHN’s two dietitians, nurse and social worker work with local doctors’ patients, many of whom are afflicted with chronic diseases.

The Vancouver Island Health Authority leases space at the Elizabeth Street clinic for the IHN service and will be asking the city to continue the arrangement.

“The doctors might be moving but we’ll be staying and continuing to provide our services,” Gentleman said.

The clinic’s two doctors gave their notice last month and the co-op board has been unsuccessful in recruiting other doctors to replace them.

“I wish it wasn’t this way but this is the way it turned out,” Denning said. “There’s nothing we can do but call it quits.”

The clinic’s 2,000 patients are being given notice of the development. Final closure is expected in February or March of 2012, Denning said.

The doctors are staying in Port Alberni, but are banding together with other doctors in town to operate another practice.

“They’re not unhappy and have been very cooperative,” Denning said. “But it will be easier to share the workload with other doctors, which is what we tried to do here.”

It’s not hard to bring doctors to the Valley, but many want to operate a specialized practice. “There’s just aren’t any GPs (general practitioners) around,” Denning said.

The co-op has operated the clinic for five years, and has leased its Elizabeth Street location from the city since July 2010.

“It belongs to the city and we’ll have to discontinue the lease and give it back to them.”

The clinic isn’t folding its tent for lack of effort.

The group tried to recruit doctors, even receiving a $12,000 grant-in-aid by the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District to help them recruit a third doctor for the clinic. But it was to no avail.

There were six doctors who passed through the clinic, some of whom stayed in Alberni, Denning said.

The 200-member co-op is slated to meet early next year to discuss continuing to provide health services. “I won’t say there’s no hope,” Denning said.

reporter@albernivalleynews.com

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