Physician Recruitment Remains of Critical Importance for the South Georgian Bay Region

Press Releases

*The following press release is being shared by the Town of The Blue Mountains on behalf of the Joint Municipal Physician Recruitment and Retention Committee.

As the work of the Joint Municipal Physician Recruitment and Retention Committee (JMPRRC) comes to a close next month, Committee Chair June Porter would like to provide an update to residents regarding the progress made by the committee.

With the need for family physicians at a critical point, the JMPRRC has worked closely with the Ministry of Health over the last four years to address the identified primary health care needs and challenges in the South Georgian Bay Region and to present solutions for consideration.

Significant progress was made by having the Town of Collingwood designated as an area of High Physician Need. Over time, this will lead to increased access to health care for all residents throughout the region and will help to reduce loads on walk-in clinics and emergency departments. The change of status was achieved by working directly with the Ministry of Health and with local Regional Advisors at Ontario Health. To continue the work of the JMPRRC, an invitation was recently extended to key stakeholders, including healthcare providers and municipal leaders within the South Georgian Bay region, to focus on improving access to primary health care through a new not-for-profit governance structure. Similar structures to this are already realizing successful results across Ontario, and include Kawartha Lakes, Lambton County and Docs by the Bay in Trenton and Brighton.

Understanding the current state of access to primary health care within the South Georgian Bay region is critical to highlight the significant need to keep these efforts moving forward. Over the past decade, the population of the South Georgian Bay Region, including the communities of the Town of The Blue Mountains, Town of Collingwood, Township of Clearview, Municipality of Meaford, Municipality of Grey Highlands, and the Town of Wasaga Beach, has grown by over 45%. However, during that same time, new Family Physicians to the area have primarily replaced Family Physicians who have retired or relocated. This has resulted in little, if any, additional capacity to handle the primary care needs of the growing population.

In addition, there are currently over 17,000 residents in the South Georgian Bay region that are not rostered to a Family Physician. This means they do not have access to a Family Physician, and instead rely on walk-in/after-hour clinics or an emergency department for primary health care needs. At current patient levels, this equates to a need for 22 new Family Physicians to fill the gap. When Chatsworth, West Grey and Southgate are factored in, the total number of unrostered residents increases to over 23,000, which equals a total regional need for 28 new Family Physicians. It's also important to note this is in addition to the significant number of residents that travel outside of the local region to access their Family Physician. To add further stress, 27% of Family Physicians in the South Georgian Bay region are 60 years of age or older and may be considering retirement within the coming years. These Physicians will be more difficult to replace on a one-for-one basis due to their large roster size.

The use of walk-in/after-hour clinics or emergency department services is an inadequate substitute for Family Physicians as they do not promote continuity or coordination of care which results from an ongoing relationship between a patient and a Family Physician. This relationship is developed over time as it spans various health care events, and results in an accumulated knowledge of the patient and care consistent with their individual needs.

Understanding these challenges, it’s clear there is a significant need to recruit Family Physicians to the region. This need is growing at an unprecedented rate and as history has demonstrated over the last ten years, this situation is not going to address itself. The JMPRRC looks forward to having key stakeholders, municipalities and community members get engaged and participate to consider the creation of a Regional Board of stakeholders for the purpose of addressing the immediate and growing need of Family Physician recruitment and retention in the region.

For more information, please contact:

Tim Hendry
Manager of Communications & Economic Development
519-599-3131 ext. 282