The health-services building at Algonquin College. Photo credit: Iliyana Shoushounova

Algonquin is planning on terminating its current health care system.

After months of planning the Algonquin College executive team has decided to begin the process of securing a new external health care provider for Algonquin.

The move will affect doctors, as well as four full-time support staff members (nurses and clerical staff), 15 part-time staff (including nurses and health-promotion staff) and six part-time physicians who are on contract with the college until March 31.

The new health service provider would be responsible for recruiting and hiring new staff to run the clinic.

“The decision made was mostly to improve services to students,” said Laura Stanbra, vice president of student services. “And that’s not to say that the services offered now are bad; they are actually very good services.”

Stanbra explained that for eight years, the college has been looking for a way to move forward and expand the healthcare services it offers.

“It’s been a long time that we’ve been analyzing this issue,” she explained. “We’ve had consultants come in the past and do a review for us, so it’s taken many years of analysis and review, so it is certainly not a decision taken lightly.”

The goal is for the school to hire an external service provider who is an expert in the medical field. They want someone well-connected to the community and potentially to other clinics.

“You should go in with an unbiased opinion so you are as open as possible for when bids come in from companies that want to run in health services,” said Stanbra in regards to the decision on a new provider. “It has to be transparent, fair [and an] equal process.”

The school has created an outline with certain conditions so the potential bidders know what is required.

“The clinic needs to operate in its current space, (and) needs to have certain hours of operation, provide certain types of services,” said Stanbra.

She explained that the new model will allow them to have different types of health services, but that they haven’t determined specifally which ones will be included.

“Our goal is for it to be less expensive for students [and] it will also be less expensive for the college to maintain,” she said. “You want to be very careful and respectful to people who work in the workplace and how they receive that information.”

The idea is that the college will host the service provider, but they won’t be responsible for the management fee.

By having more services and extended hours, the idea is that the revenues generated from the health services will go to the service provider and will not be taken from the college.

“Each student ideally — if we eliminate the student fee — that’s $40 per student per year minimum,” she explained. “Some students who are here through three terms pay $20 per term.”

Stanbra explained there is an entire tuition policy framework that the ministry of education has with regards to how colleges are allowed to charge fees and that the one for this model is called a compulsory ancillary fee.

With the new health care provider, students will be charged directly by the compulsory ancillary fee and not through the tuition fee.

“In order to charge the compulsory ancillary fee to a student we have to work with the Students’ Association and [they] need to agree that [we can] charge those fees.”

The executive team has met with the Students’ Association and discussed their decision with them. During that discussion, the SA understood and supported their plan which helped them move forward.

“The primary driver of this was [to serve] students [which] falls within our learner-driven philosophy and our strategic plan,” said Stanbra.

The team will interview bidders who have met the conditions put forward by the school. But in the end, if no one bids or if the candidates don’t meet the criteria required in the outline the college won’t move forward with the new health care provider.

“It has to be the right services and the right choice for us,” said Stanbra. “[We want] more accessibility for students, broader services to students and lesser or no cost to students.”

With an end goal for April 1, 2019, Stanbra is hoping that this will give students more options when it comes to health-care.

“We have a number of months to work our way through this, it’s a process we don’t want to rush.”