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Orléans family medicine clinic says it's closing due to financial strain of COVID-19

An Orléans family medicine and walk-in clinic says its closing its doors at the end of this week due in part to the financial strain the COVID-19 pandemic has put on its finances.

Asclepios Medical Centre says it serves 9,000 patients and will be closing May 31

Carole Legault and Sophia Wright, who were both patients at Asclepios Medical Centre, say its closure has left them facing a lot of uncertainty made more stressful by the ongoing pandemic. 0:44

An Orléans family medicine and walk-in clinic says it's closing its doors at the end of the month due in part to the financial strain caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Asclepios Medical Centre posted on its website and Facebook page that its 9,000 patients will be hearing directly from their doctors about how they might receive care after the clinic's last day on May 31.

Sophia Wright, a patient at Asclepios for 10 years, said the announcement left her worried about how she'll get the prescriptions she needs.

"I don't think the emotion I feel is frustration, I would say anger and scared," Wright said. "My life is at risk."

Doctors at the clinic helped her with a cancer diagnosis seven years ago and Wright said she's been happy with the ongoing care.

"What do I do? Who's going to a sign a [requisition form] so I can go to that lab that's open to get blood work? I can't go in myself."

Wright did received an email saying she would get follow-up communication.

Sophia Wright said she's been left scrambling by the sudden announcement that the Asclepios Medical Centre and its walk-in clinic will be closing May 31, 2020. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

The clinic is organized as a family health group, which means physicians are paid on a fee-for-service basis.

"The closure is the result of the Clinic simply not having the resources to sustain the increased operational costs and decreased revenues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic," the Asclepios website said.

CBC News tried to reach doctors and management of the clinic and received no direct response as of Monday.

Carole Legault, another patient, said while she's fortunate she doesn't have any chronic conditions, she's worried about the loss of a clinic during a pandemic.

"People will wait and problems will get bigger," she said. "When they do hit the health-care system it will be so much more expensive."

Carole Legault has been a patient at the Asclepios Medical Clinic for three years. She said she's worried the clinic's closure will have a greater long-term cost on the health-care system. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Governments should be making sure patients don't face this kind of disruption, she said.

Other clinics may be affected

Dr. Alykhan Abdulla, the family practice chair for the Ontario Medical Association, said clinics that rely on fee-for-service have been struggling with the decline in patient volumes as people avoid medical facilities due to worries about catching COVID-19.

"Asclepios is one," Abdulla said. "I know of, personally, multiple dozens that are in this situation and will be going through this calculation …There is going to be lots of clinics that will close."

Dr. Alykhan Abdulla, chair of the Ontario Medical Association's family and general practice section, said many fee-for-service medical facilities are feeling the financial strain of COVID-19. (Supplied/Tia Photography)

Doctors may continue to treat some of their patients via telemedicine or find another practice where they can afford to set up — but not everybody will continue to get care, Abdulla said.

"Those patients become orphan patients. They have to go searching for another doctor to look after them or they have to go for episodic care in an [emergency room] or a walk-in clinic," he said.

Abdulla said the Ontario government needs to look at income stabilization for clinics that have seen a decline in patient volumes, without requiring that money be paid back.

A doctor with the Ontario Medical Association says other clinics are struggling to stay open in the midst of the pandemic. 10:28

Clinic received advanced payments

Abdulla said it's also time to allow fee-for-service clinics to move to the payment model where they are compensated based on the number of registered patients they have — which has been restricted in urban centres for years.

In a statement, the Ministry of Health said the Asclepios clinic was not previously allowed to reorganize into the registered patient funding model because it is not located in "an area of high physician need" and that model is meant to attract doctors to those areas.

The Ministry of Health added it is working to support health-care providers who can't provide normal service due to the pandemic.

Asclepios received $100,000 through its advance payment program, the ministry said, which tops up fees based on 70 per cent of an office's monthly average income. The advances began in May and will have to be paid back in the fall, with no interest charged.

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