Regional committee to address minister on urgent need for primary care physicians

·3 min read

The Town of the Blue Mountains (TBM) is calling on its neighbours to help address the growing need of attracting more primary care physicians to the South Georgian Bay.

“This problem doesn't know municipal boundaries. The problem is not municipal boundary driven,” said TBM councillor Rob Sampson. “It is truly a regional problem. Doctors and patients don't necessarily live and work in the same municipal boundary.”

TBM’s joint municipal physician recruitment and retention committee has arranged to make a deputation to the Ministry of Health at this year’s Association of Municipalities Ontario (AMO) conference.

Over the past several months, the committee has made an effort to seek participation from a number of neighbouring municipalities. Currently, the committee has participating representatives from Grey Highlands, Meaford, Collingwood and Clearview.

“We would like to make a joint deputation to the Ministry of Health regarding physician recruitment since the recruitment challenge is a cross-regional, cross-municipal, border-less challenge that impacts all of our municipalities,” Sampson continued.

The committee’s AMO deputation will be unique in that it will be delivered jointly by representatives from various municipalities, as well as two different counties – Simcoe and Grey County.

“The committee’s membership consists of area municipalities all sharing a common interest in increasing the community’s access to primary health care. We are looking to approach the Minister of Health with data and local information that reflects our common concern and local need to increase access to primary care in our region,” said June Porter, chair of the joint doctor recruitment committee.

Porter added that the committee’s municipal partners clearly understand the need to increase access to primary care services for their residents.

“They see this as a regional issue, which supersedes traditional municipal and county boundaries to ensure the foundation is there for their respective Ontario Heath Teams to succeed in delivering the intended results,” Porter said.

She explained that Clearview, Grey Highlands, Meaford, and TBM are already considered “areas of high physician need,” unlike Collingwood, which is now reflecting on their need for family physicians.

Through the deputation, the committee plans to provide the minister with an overview of data, which will highlight a number of key findings from its recent family physician survey that was conducted earlier this year. Key findings include:

Additionally, Porter said the survey also indicated that Health Care Connect is not working as it was intended. Health Care Connect is a provincial service that refers Ontarians who don't have a physician to a family health care provider who may be accepting new patients.

“It is not considered by local residents as a useful service given that one has to de-roster with their existing family physician with no guarantee that you will be able to secure one in the area in which one now lives,” she said.

Porter said that through the deputation, the committee hopes to increase awareness of the provincial government about the local and regional healthcare needs.

“We will ask the minister to support the recruitment of family physicians to the areas served by the committee. We hope to encourage a willingness to explore access to funding to staff primary care delivery models such as a community health centre, nurse practitioner-led clinics etc., within our communities in our region to achieve their goal of creating an interconnected system of care across the continuum,” Porter said.

The AMO conference is set to run virtually Aug. 15 to 18.

Jennifer Golletz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,

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