Faced with physician recruitment and retainment woes in Selwyn — challenges that many municipalities across the province are currently facing — Selwyn council has passed a motion supporting a recommendation from its Economic Development & Business Committee (EDBC) to lobby the Ontario government to address doctor recruitment so that Selwyn can be competitive in its physician recruitment efforts.
Deputy Mayor Sherry Senis, a member of the physician recruitment task force who moved the motion on Tuesday, recently met with the EDBC. She told fellow councillors she and other EDBC members were surprised to learn that the province is no longer providing grants of up to $65,000 to help attract doctors to underserved communities.
“I contacted MPP Dave Smith and asked him why the grant was no longer available. He told me that every area in the province is deemed underserviced right now when it comes to physician positions so they’re not going to offer the grant,” said Senis.
Senis said Smith also informed her that 11,000 Ontarians are without a physician.
Smith told The Examiner the grant program ended before he was elected.
“Each region of Ontario has different needs and as such each region is responsible for the recruitment efforts needed to attract the types of doctors that they need,” he said in an email.
“In my time as the MPP, the Peterborough area has had three different physician recruitment officers. That position is funded by both the City of Peterborough and the County of Peterborough. Just prior to being elected, the region was short 11 physicians. At present, the recruitment officers have been able to reduce this number. As a government we have increased the number of seats in medical schools across Ontario because for a number of years, Ontario was not graduating enough physicians to fill the vacancies left by retiring physicians. We have also requested that the College of Physicians review their policies on recognizing credentials for those potential physicians who were trained and practicing in other countries."
Senis said the EDBC had informed committee members that a doctor in Bridgenorth is retiring, and there’s a need for a new physician at the Morton Community Healthcare Centre in Lakefield.
“I live in a subdivision. There are a lot of people who have moved here and when they moved here, I don’t think some of them anticipated having to keep their doctor from where they moved from. And yet they’re going to have to because there’s no doctor here for them to take their place,” Senis said.
“It is a problem. As I said, that one doctor wants to retire at the Bridgenorth medical centre and if he retires and they don't get a replacement, all of his roster of patients won't have a doctor. I mean, some doctors have rosters of 1,500 to 1,700 patients. If their doctor retired they'd have to go to a walk-in clinic or emerge.”
Council decided to lobby the provincial government by sending a delegation to the upcoming Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) conference in January. It plans to call on the Ontario Minister of Health, Christine Elliott, to push for solutions to help bring new doctors to Selwyn Township.
Ultimately, it’s up to the province to determine whether they’ll hear the delegation.
The move from council comes on the heels of a less-than-flattering report from Maria Gomez, of the Peterborough Family Health Team (PFHT), who recently described the physician recruitment process in Peterborough County and city as “really behind,” If the Peterborough area hopes to increase the number of new doctors coming into the region, Gomez said marketing needs to be improved, funding needs to be boosted, a social media presence needs to be established and the recruitment task force needs to be revitalized.
Gomez said 20 per cent of the population is at risk of not having access to essential health care services, adding that the Peterborough area is “severely underfunded” compared to its neighbouring jurisdictions.
Before lobbying at the ROMA convention, Senis plans on meeting with Gomez and Peterborough County Warden J. Murray Jones.
“We’ll talk about ways that we can attract doctors to our area. And once we have had that meeting, I’ll come back to council and to the EDBC and let them know what has been recommended and we’ll determine from that how we’re going to lobby the government,” said Senis.
Brendan Burke is a staff reporter at the Examiner, covering Peterborough County. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brendan Burke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Peterborough Examiner