Jeff Heuchert email@example.com
Two Stratford physicians whose west-end office building sustained fire and smoke damage last month have picked up the pieces of their practices and resumed seeing patients in new locations.
Doctor David Williams is temporarily sharing space at the Erie Street office belonging to Dr. Alnoor Kara before moving into a permanent suite at the Jenny Trout Centre in March. Doctor Bernard Bukala, meanwhile, reopened his family practice earlier this week in the Huron Street building last occupied by Wade's Flowers.
Williams and Bukala were previously the sole tenants in the Medical Arts building on St. Vincent Street North, where fire crews were called in the early morning of Monday, Jan. 20 after flames were seen shooting out of the bottom floor. The blaze was contained to an examining room belonging to Williams but there was smoke damaged throughout, leaving the building unusable.
In the immediate aftermath, Williams got on the phone with his telephone provider to try to get his office's number forwarded to a cellphone. That process took more than a day, far longer than Williams wanted to leave his patients without answers to their questions or wondering about appointments.
"We were in the midst of an emergency trying to get things organized, and the hardest part was the communication," Williams says, adding his office was able to reach out to patients with scheduled visits thanks to a firefighter who retrieved an appointment book.
Aside from his experience with his telephone provider, Williams says everyone he has dealt with since the fire, including his insurance provider and restoration company, has been "fantastic." He notes about half of his patient records were still kept on paper, and sustained extensive smoke damage. They've been handed over to Belfor Restoration, along with other pieces of equipment that need cleaning. Belfor is also assisting sort through damaged inventory before Williams submits a claim to his insurance.
"It's been a big job, and we've been doing it while also trying to look after our patients," Williams adds.
Williams, who currently has approximately 1,400 patients, says he is grateful to Dr. Kara for opening the door to his office so he can see patients sporadically. Williams says he will be seeing patients during evenings until his move next month.
Some files at Dr. Bukala's office also sustained smoke damage and are in the process of being refurbished or photocopied. Bukala says his office switched over to electronic records about two years ago, which helped limit the damage. Some of his equipment and furniture also sustained smoke damage.
His office didn't have its phone system up and running until Wednesday of this week.
"The biggest problem was the fact patients couldn't reach us," says Bukala.
That aside, the impact of last month's fire on his patients has been somewhat limited due to the fact Bukala only sees patients in his Stratford office once a week. The other days he works at Clinton Public Hospital. As a result, he missed only two or three days' worth of appointments before opening in his new office – a move that was planned long before the fire.
Bukala opened his new space on Monday.