The residents of Saint-Stanislas-de-Champlain, Que., a small town about 100 kilometers southwest of Quebec City, could soon be without a family doctor.
The town's only practitioner, Dr. Claude Roberge, is planning to retire in the coming months and there is no one to replace him. It will be the first time in 80 years that the aging population of about 1,100 people has been left without a doctor.
It's a situation Mayor Luc Pellerin calls "alarming" and "critical."
"We're worried and we're a bit, I'd say, distraught. We're not too sure what to do," he said.
While the medical clinic is working on transferring its patients to other doctors in nearby towns before Roberge closes shop, Pellerin says there will still be a few hundred residents left who won't have a practitioner.
The mayor said he doubts all of them will succeed in finding a new doctor because there just aren't enough in the region to meet the demand.
And those who do find one will still have to deal with the issue of transportation to receive care. The nearest town with a clinic is about 11 kilometers away.
Pellerin said that's a problem because not all residents can travel.
"They don't have a car or they don't have a driver's licence anymore because they're too elderly, so it's not going well," he said.
Resident Pauline Bédard shares the mayor's concern. She found a new doctor in Sainte-Geneviève-de-Bastican, about a 10-minute drive away.
While she likes the new clinic, she said she worries about what will happen when she is too old to drive herself there.
"It's a shame," she said. "We were close [to the clinic], it was really, really pleasant."
The mayor said his team is currently looking at options to provide transportation services for elderly residents to go to their medical appointments.
He said would like the Health Ministry to fund some renovations to the local clinic and add radiology and blood-testing equipment. He thinks it might make it more appealing for young doctors to decide to settle there, something he's still hoping will happen.
But Dr. Pierre Martin, the president of the association of general practitioners of Mauricie, is not convinced.
He said increasingly, doctors prefer working in a team and in larger clinics that can offer more services.
It's no longer the case that doctors want to move to small towns to set up as the town's family doctor, he said. "Those are things we won't see anymore."
According to the regional health authority, the Centre intégré universitaire de santé et de services sociaux de la Mauricie-et-du-Centre-du-Québec (CIUSSS-MCQ), more than 69,000 people in the Mauricie and Central Quebec regions are on the province's waiting list for a doctor — an increase of 10,000 people since April.