“This crisis is here” – physician shortage discussed at RRDMA

By Ken Kellar
Staff writer

Local municipalities are planning to bring the urgent need for more physicians to the different levels of government, following talks at the Rainy River District Municipal Association (RRDMA) AGM on Saturday.

“There is a critical need for physicians in the Rainy River district, specifically at the Rainy River Hospital,” said Mike Ford, Reeve of the Township of Alberton and RRDMA representative on the Physician Recruitment and Retention Committee.

Lincoln Dunn, a councillor for the Township of Emo and another member of the Physician Recruitment and Retention committee, supported Ford’s report, stressing that the doctor crisis isn’t something still out on the horizon. (Full disclosure: Dunn is also the general manager for the Fort Frances Times.)

“One thing I’d like to add to underscore the crisis that our district is going to enter into; we are going to lose one of our doctors who just arrived here in the last two years as of March of this year,” Dunn said. “So this crisis is not impending, this crisis is here. It’s critical and important that we as leaders have a statement going forward to other levels of government, in particular to the ministry and our MPP, to let them know we’re not approaching crisis, crisis is here now.”

The AGM saw municipal delegates from across the district joined virtually to go over important items for the region, as well as to hear reports and presentations from various entities such as the Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU), Rainy River District Social Services Administration Board (RRDSSAB), and Rainy River Future Development Corporation (RRFDC), among others.

Before the presentations from external agencies, the meeting went into its business session, which included topics like the minute of previous meetings, an audited treasurer’s report for 2021 and the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association (NOMA) levy payment. Ford’s doctor shortage update was one such business items.

“They have two physicians there with a high caseload, strenuous physical and mental demands,” Ford said.

“Basically, they’re getting burnt out. We need to get them some help.”

Ford stressed that the RRDMA needed to lobby higher levels of government to step in and begin to address the shortage, adding that the results could be “traumatic” for the region in the event that those doctors in Rainy River decided to leave.

“One fear of the committee is that we may not have doctors at Rainy River,” he explained.

“The disruption that would cause to the entire district would be quite traumatic, with land ambulance to urgent care being an hour away geographically from Fort Frances, one and a half to two hours away from Big Grassy or Lake of the Woods. We’re going to have to get our provincial politicians involved, and federals.”