United Counties Council hears of need for doctor recruitment

Nick Laurin
United Counties Council hears of need for doctor recruitment
Meeting of United Counties of SD&G Council on Monday, March 21.

CORNWALL, Ontario – On March 21, 2022, the United Counties of SDG Council received a presentation from the Hôpital Glengarry Memorial Hospital (HGMH) on family physician recruitment.

The presentation given by Dr. Nadia Kucherepa, Chief of Staff at HGMH, began with highlighting this need for recruitment.

“Our hospital alone has a 22 bed inpatient unit that requires a physician to service these patients seven days a week,” said Kucherepa. “Family physicians with onsite practices at HMGH are required to provide hospitalist coverage on a rotational basis.”

Kucherepa explained that without recruitment, current physicians will need to be able to cover the inpatient unit one week out of every four weeks, which can create some access issues, and contribute to position burnout. HGMH’s ideal physician rotation would be one in every six weeks, or one in every eight weeks.

Kucherepa highlights the importance of recruitment since four physicians are relocating, and one physician is planning on retiring within the next four years.

HGMH expects that approximately 3,150 patients will find themselves without a doctor, if family physicians are not recruited.

Additionally, Kuchepera explained that the Ontario Health Care Connect regional wait list for doctors is futile, and that local doctors haven’t pulled from that list since 2018.

According to the 2020 Upper Canada, Cornwall and Area OHT data & 2022 NPLC data, approximately 117,000 patients are being served by approximately 50 family physicians (approximately 1700 patients/physicians).

Kucherepa used this data to show the Counties the numbers of patients who do not have a physician, and how many physicians are needed in SD&G to fill that need.

“This data also tells us that we have 12,000 unattached patients, now with the additional 3,000 that we’re foreseeing within the next coming months, we’re looking at 15,000 unattached patients,” said Kucherepa. “New family physicians tend to roster around 1,000 patients per provider. Therefore, we need a minimum of 15 family physicians for SD&G and for Glengarry alone, we’re hoping that we can recruit four in 2022.”

Kucherepa explained to the Counties some of the struggles with recruitment.

“Our community has office space for four recruits on site at the hospital, and one recruit in Moose Creek, but like I said previously, we haven’t successfully recruited a physician since 2018,” said Kucherepa. “We certainly have had interested candidates, but we lost them primarily to Cornwall or Ottawa.”

Additionally, large hospitals in the area provide significant cash-based recruitment incentives that are hard to compete with, and offer more work model options that tend to be more lucrative.

HGMH has prepared a list of incentives for interested family physicians candidates.

  •     Free rent for the first five years ($40,000 value) for onsite MDs or upfront cash incentive of $40,000
  •     Relocation incentive of up to $5,000
  •     Include onsite office amenities such as: heating, cooling, ventilation, office furniture, water and electrical, and more.

HGMH’s proposal to the Counties is the following contributions per new doctor for a minimum of five year family practice agreement, on top of the incentives offered by HGMH.

  •     North Glengarry Township – $5,000 (Alexandria/Moose Creek MDs)
  •     South Glengarry Township – $5,000 (Alexandria/Moose Creek MDs)
  •     SD&G Counties – $5,000 (Anywhere in SD&G)

Councillor Kirsten Gardner asked Kucherepa if there’s a way for all municipalities to connect, and work on this issue together.

“We, and South Dundas and South Stormont have had a partnership for about 3 years, working to recruit doctors in our area. We’ve been successful in recruiting 2 total at this point,” said Gardner. “I’m just wondering if the intention of this is to have a broader discussion with all the municipalities. I’m wondering how we can connect, because there’s already work being done in the Western part of SD&G. I’m just curious if there’s a way we can connect so we’re not duplicating efforts.”

Kucherepa believes there is an opportunity to try and align efforts, and plans to discuss it with Gardner in detail in the future.

Councillor Bryan McGillis added to Councillor Gardner’s comment.

“We lost six doctors in the Western part of SD&G. It’s a great idea, we’d like to connect, have a discussion, and make this happen,” said McGillis.

Councillors Alan Armstrong and Stephanie Jaworski both made comments on how important this issue is for the lives of the residents.

The discussion ended with Warden Carma Williams saying that the Council will continue this conversation with Kucherepa after receiving a report on this subject from their CAO.

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