Barrett/Hoskins discuss Norfolk doctor shortage

For Immediate Release
April 17, 2015

Queen’s Park – Over the years, Haldimand-Norfolk MPP Toby Barrett has met with the committee trying to build a new health centre in Port Dover, as well as with Norfolk General Hospital’s recruitment team.

Back in January the local MPP wrote to Ontario’s Health Minister to alert him to a concerning doctor shortage situation in Norfolk County. Several local family physicians have retired, and another has announced he will retire by the end of this May. Thursday, Barrett had the opportunity to question Health Minister Eric Hoskins on this situation which is bordering critical:

“…could you provide us with some advice and some action to help our community down in Norfolk County attract physicians and also help attract physicians to other underserviced areas?”

Minister Hoskins responded by saying, “We have a number of initiatives that are under way – work by Health Force Ontario that specifically targets underserviced and regularly serviced areas that are facing challenges with regard to physician supply. We also have a program called Health Care Connect that aims to attach unattached patients to new family doctors.”

Barrett then continued his line of questioning by asking the Minister, “Why will you not create new family health teams or other empty family health organizations, for example?”

The Health Minister admitted there is still more work to be done. “Nothing prevents family doctors, for example, if that’s what we’re talking about, from setting up shop anywhere in this province. They can do so through fee-for-service. They can create a family health group as well, where they can get together with other family doctors. They can work as locums as well. They can replace a retiring physician, for example, on a family health team.

“But also, we have allocated 20 spots per month for underserviced areas around the province. We’ve specifically looked to our LHINs to identify, for the purpose of employing these family health team doctors, what parts of the province should be included. It may be that this part of Ontario is part of that designated area. We should know in the next several weeks.”

Community members with advice or comment can contact MPP Barrett at [email protected].

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HANSARD
ONTARIO LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY
Thursday, April 16, 2015

Doctor shortage
Mr. Toby Barrett: Also to the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care: We have a problem in our riding. A Simcoe doctor is retiring with a roster of 4,600 patients and has no successor. This exacerbates an already fragile situation.
In June 2013, another example: A Port Dover physician with a roster of 2,000 retired, again without a replacement.
Over the years, I’ve met with a committee trying to build a new health centre in Port Dover. They’re enthusiastic, but they need doctors. I wrote you on January 22, seeking possible solutions. I await a reply to that letter.
Minister, I’m asking: Could you provide us with some advice and some action to help our community down in Norfolk county attract physicians and also help attract physicians to other underserviced areas?
Hon. Eric Hoskins: I appreciate the question from the member opposite. It is a very important issue in terms of physician supply around this province. It can be challenging in certain parts of the province, more challenging than in others, to gain that supply of physicians that’s so important to provide that primary care support to residents.
We have a number of initiatives that are under way—work by HealthForceOntario that specifically targets underserviced and regularly serviced areas that are facing challenges with regard to physician supply. We also have a program called Health Care Connect that aims to attach unattached patients to new family doctors.
But it’s important to recognize as well that we have made significant progress in this province in terms of attachment of patients. We now have about 94% of Ontarians who have a regular primary care provider—
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Answer?
Hon. Eric Hoskins: —that’s a physician, but it may also be another primary care provider. In the supplementary, I’ll talk to other investments that we’ve made.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?
Mr. Toby Barrett: Thank you, Minister. There’s a Norfolk General Hospital recruitment team and also this Port Dover committee.
One option, I feel, is that they need an empty family health organization to better enable them to attract doctors. I’m also told of a need for an additional health organization in west Norfolk, down in the Port Rowan and Delhi area.
Minister, you have indicated previously in question period that you would like to see more family health teams in small towns and in rural Ontario. However, I understand there is a cap, allowing something like only 20 new family doctors a month in the entire province. We graduate something like 500 a year from Ontario’s medical schools. In the summer, I was in Norfolk; we need another 14 doctors, according to the formula.
My question, Minister: Why will you not create new family health teams or other empty family health organizations, for example?
Hon. Eric Hoskins: I know the member knows that I was born in Norfolk General Hospital, so this is a part of the province that I know very well, and he’s acknowledging that.
Mr. John Yakabuski: There’s a plaque on the wall.
Hon. Eric Hoskins: There’s no plaque.
This is a very important issue. The fact is that, in the last 10 years—there are 2,300 more family doctors practising in this province than there were before. That’s an almost 25% increase.
But there is still more work to be done. Nothing prevents family doctors, for example, if that’s what we’re talking about, from setting up shop anywhere in this province. They can do so through fee-for-service. They can create a family health group as well, where they can get together with other family doctors. They can work as locums as well. They can replace a retiring physician, for example, on a family health team.
But also, we have allocated 20 spots per month for underserviced areas around the province. We’ve specifically looked to our LHINs to identify, for the purpose of employing these family health team doctors, what parts of the province should be included. It may be that this part of Ontario is part of that designated area. We should know in the next several weeks.