Emo council tackles physician shortage

By Allan Bradbury
Staff Writer

At their February 9 meeting, members of Emo Town Council discussed the physician shortage crisis facing the region.

On Jan. 18, the Fort Frances and District Physician Recruitment and Retention Committee sent a letter to the region’s MP, Marcus Powlowski and MPP, Greg Rickford. The letter was sent in hopes of bringing the departure of physicians from the region to their attention.

The Township of Emo is set to lose one of its doctors in the coming weeks.

Hamilton spoke to council and explained some of how recruiting works. He said the available positions are posted on various different recruiting websites for doctors.
One thing Hamilton mentioned, that some members of council said they didn’t realize, is that doctors in most of Canada are considered independent contractors.

“Physicians are not employees,” Hamilton said. “A lot of people have the belief that the physicians work for the hospital and they do not, physicians are private contractors. If they choose to work in groups then they are a group of private contractors, if they choose to work alone, they’re private contractors.”

In the local context, Riverside Health Care owns its facilities and the equipment inside, which it contracts doctors to be able to use.

“Riverside Health Care is an entity on its own; it basically provides the brick and mortar and what everybody needs in hospitals,” Hamilton said. “The brick and mortar and all the contents, which would include the equipment and the staff.”

Similarly, the clinic buildings in both Rainy River and Emo are owned by Riverside, but the clinics are owned and operated by independent doctors.

Hamilton also mentioned that the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) does not make it as easy for physicians trained in other countries to come into Ontario to practice medicine.

Hamilton relayed the story of a doctor who trained outside of Canada and tried to come to Ontario to work but was placed under supervision by the CPSO for an extended period, having their work reviewed regularly by other doctors who had to be paid by this foreign-trained physician. The strict conditions led to the doctor leaving for another province with an easier process of importing their credentials.

In a recent interview with the Times, regional MP Marcus Powlowski suggested the federal government could do something with its spending power to lobby the CPSO to make it easier for foreign-trained physicians to practice in Ontario.

Coun. Lincoln Dunn, who sits on the physician recruitment committee with Hamilton, praised him for the work he does in ensuring that the region has the physicians it does, including the locums (temporary or visiting doctors) who fill many hours in local clinics and hospitals.

“I just want to make sure that the rest of council understands that it’s not a matter of luck, it’s a result of the hard work that Todd does.” Dunn said. “His role in recruitment is not just recruiting doctors who come to stay but also the doctors who come to locum – and come to fill in those shifts. I know that consumes a very large chunk of his time and he’s very diligent.”