Work continues on physician shortage

Sam Odrowski

Addressing the shortage of physicians in northwestern Ontario has been a major priority for one Fort Frances town councillor as of late.

Coun. Wendy Brunetta, who serves on the Northern Ontario Municipal Association’s (NOMA) Northern Physician Task Force, said they’re currently developing a business case for supporting rural health care by citing the economic benefit of recruiting physicians.

“We’re also looking at how we can get feedback from our communities regarding the Ontario Medical Association Primary Care Group for the next round of contract negotiations,” she explained last week.

“That is something that will be coming to our community in the future.”

Meanwhile, the number of full time physicians allocated to communities is based on population, which Coun. Brunetta said can cause problems since the populations are determined by census data.

“When there’s a large increase in population, whether it be because of a mine starting up or another economic boon to the community, the demand for the physicians that were allotted for just increases exponentially,” she noted.

An example of this is in Red Lake where they’re currently building a bridge to Pikangikum. Once the bridge becomes operational, Red Lake will face a large influx of patients, Coun. Brunneta said.

“We’re going to try and come up with some information we can provide the task force, from the NOMA board, on possible solutions,” she explained.

The Northern Ontario School of Medicine, meanwhile, reported to the Northern Physician Task Force that they’re working with high school students to ensure they’re aware of what courses are required for admission to the school of medicine.

“They’re finding that many of them are waiting until after graduation before they apply and realize they don’t have one of the prerequisites,” Coun. Brunetta remarked.

In other news, Coun. Brunetta attended the NOMA executive committee meeting that was held in late September in Thunder Bay.

At that time, it was felt that their agenda was lengthy and many of the items on the agenda had been there for many years without any movement.

As a result, NOMA will engage in a strategic planning session to focus its efforts.