Press release – May 13, 2022
Physician recruitment remains critical to the Southern Georgian Bay region
*The following press release is shared by the City of The Blue Mountains on behalf of the Municipal Joint Physician Recruitment and Retention Committee.
As the work of the Joint Municipal Physician Recruitment and Retention Committee (JMPRRC) draws to a close next month, committee chair June Porter wants to provide an update to residents on the progress being made by the committee.
With the need for family doctors at a critical point, the JMPRRC has worked closely with the Ministry of Health over the past four years to address identified primary health care needs and challenges in the region. southern Georgian Bay and to present options for consideration.
Significant progress has been made in having the town of Collingwood designated as a High Need a doctor. Over time, this will lead to increased access to health care for all area residents and help reduce the load on walk-in clinics and emergency departments. The change in status was achieved by working directly with the Ministry of Health and with local Ontario Health Regional Advisors. To continue the work of the JMPRRC, an invitation was recently extended to key stakeholders, including health care providers and municipal leaders in the South Georgian Bay region, to focus on improving the access to primary health care through a new not-for-profit governance structure. Structures similar to this are already seeing positive results across Ontario, including Kawartha Lakes, Lambton County and Docs by the Bay in Trenton and Brighton.
Understanding the current state of access to primary health care in the Southern Georgian Bay region is key to highlighting the important need to continue these efforts. Over the past decade, the population of the Southern Georgian Bay region, including the communities of the Town of The Blue Mountains, the Town of Collingwood, the Township of Clearview, the Municipality of Meaford, the Municipality of Gray Highlands and the Town of Wasaga Beach, increased by more than 45%. However, during the same period, new family physicians in the region have mostly replaced family physicians who have retired or moved. This has resulted in little or no additional capacity to meet the primary care needs of a growing population.
Additionally, there are currently over 17,000 residents in the Southern Georgian Bay area who are not registered with a family doctor. This means they do not have access to a family doctor and instead rely on walk-in/after-hours clinics or an emergency department for their primary health care needs. . At the current level of patients, this equates to a need for 22 new family physicians to fill the void. When Chatsworth, West Gray and Southgate are taken into account, the total number of unregistered residents jumps to over 23,000, equating to a total regional need for 28 new family doctors. It is also important to note that this is in addition to the significant number of residents who travel outside the local area to access their family doctor. To add to the stress, 27% of family physicians in the Southern Georgian Bay region are 60 or older and may be planning to retire in the coming years. These physicians will be more difficult to replace on an individual basis due to the large size of their roster.
The use of walk-in/after-hours clinics or emergency departments is an inadequate substitute for family physicians, as they do not promote the continuity or coordination of care that results from an ongoing relationship between a patient and a family physician. This relationship develops over time as it spans various health care events and results in accumulated knowledge of the patient and care consistent with their individual needs.
Understanding these challenges, it is clear that there is a significant need to recruit family physicians to the region. This need is growing at an unprecedented rate and as history over the past decade has demonstrated, this situation is not going to resolve itself. The JMPRRC looks forward to the engagement and participation of key stakeholders, municipalities and community members in the creation of a regional stakeholder council to address the immediate and growing need for recruitment and retention of physicians from family in the area.
For more information please contact:
Head of Communications and Economic Development
519-599-3131 ext. 282