Patience and patients are being tested

Richard Mahoney—My View
Patience and patients are being tested

Death, taxes, the weather and the lack of a family doctor. We can talk about those topics until we are blue in the face. But there is little we can do about these constant facts of life.

We mere mortals cannot cheat death, cannot avoid paying taxes, can only grumble about the weather, and in recent years, many people have concluded that local physicians are as rare as hen’s teeth.

If you have access to a medical professional consider yourself fortunate.

In Ontario, 2.3 million people don’t have a family doctor, the Ontario College of Family Physicians has cautioned. That number could grow to 4.4 million patients in two years, the college fears.

However, the Ontario government paints a more healthy prognosis.

Ontario currently leads the country with 90 per cent of people connected to a regular health care provider, the Ministry of Health asserts.

Massive injections of money have been announced in the ongoing efforts to shore up a stressed health care system that was further weakened during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For example, in February, the Ontario government announced it was spending $4,074,398 to connect more people to primary care teams in Cornwall and Stormont-Dundas-Glengarry through the Seaway Valley Community Health Centre, Centre de santé Communautaire de l’Estrie, Glengarry Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinic, and the Rideau St. Lawrence Family Health Team, all members of the Great River Ontario Health Team. The money is meant to permit 19,340 people to connect with a primary care provider.

Earlier this year, the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry rolled out a medical version of the “Date My County” promotion, offering five qualifying medical professionals $5,000 each to sign employment contracts within SDG. At that time, regional health statistics showed that more than 15,000 residents in this region did not have a primary care provider.

The $25,000 City of Cornwall Medical Scholarship is available to local medical students who are required to, within three months of acquiring certification by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, set up a family practice in Cornwall for at least five years.

Cornwall Economic Development works with the Cornwall Community Hospital to attract and retain medical professionals. Doctors can apply for assistance to offset the costs of establishing their offices in Cornwall. The Medical Recruitment Program provides up to $25,000 for a physician or specialist deemed necessary by the hospital and the city.

Since 2006, the medical recruitment effort has helped bring 46 physicians and specialists to Cornwall.

But all of these attractive bonuses have failed to completely close the gaps.

Cornwall Mayor Justin Towndale has formed a taskforce on medical recruitment, in what is described as “a pivotal step in addressing the critical issue of medical practitioner shortages within our community.”

The mayor acknowledges “over a decade of efforts by an existing working group, which has tirelessly advocated for solutions to the ongoing challenges faced by residents in accessing essential healthcare services.” Yet, he prescribes a mayor-led taskforce that “recognizes the need for a structured approach.” This group will “harness the collective expertise of our community to develop comprehensive strategies and initiatives aimed at addressing the root causes of medical practitioner shortages.”

“A shortage of doctors, especially family doctors, is one of the most pressing issues facing our community,” said the mayor. “I am not immune to this issue, as I also do not currently have a family doctor and can understand the challenges that this lack of availability creates.”

The many people whose patience is being tested already realize that since the doctor shortage did not occur overnight, it will not be remedied rapidly. The fragile condition state of our “social safety nets” has been analyzed and debated ad nauseum. The guiding principle behind any medical intervention is primum non nocere, which is as you know, Latin for”first, do no harm.“

Another attempt to tackle the physician shortage can not hurt. Here’s hoping the mayor’s prescription is just what the doctor ordered.

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