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Association says new doctors don't want to choose family medicine

Dr. David Barber from the Ontario Medical Association said young MDs see the impact of the long working hours and low morale that family physicians face. (File) Dr. David Barber from the Ontario Medical Association said young MDs see the impact of the long working hours and low morale that family physicians face. (File)
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The Ontario Medical Association says new doctors don’t want to pursue family medicine in Ontario.

The OMA was responding to numbers released this week from the Canadian Residency Matching Service. It revealed there were 108 unfilled family medicine spots in Ontario, up from 100 a year before.

“They see the work of family doctors, they work with them and they just see how difficult it is on the ground,” said section chair Dr. David Barber.

“They’re asking themselves ‘why would I do this?’ when these doctors aren’t happy with what they’re doing … I think the medical students see the general morale of family doctors being very, very low.”

Barber said rural communities are being hit hardest, something the province doesn’t seem to understand.

“There hasn’t been enough communication or collaboration and I’m not sure the government understands the real issue here,” he said.

“The Northern Ontario School of Medicine is amazing -- and I think they actually did better with the matches here, which is better for rural Ontario -- but across the board, we’re losing this battle to make family medicine attractive to medical students and that’s just bad for society in general.”

Dr. Anne McDonald, a family doctor in Little Current with the Northeastern Manitoulin Family Health Team, said recruitment is a challenge. (File)

Dr. Anne McDonald, a family doctor in Little Current with the Northeastern Manitoulin Family Health Team, said recruitment is a challenge.

“Obviously I think it’s a wonderful job and a very flexible job, otherwise I wouldn’t have chosen it,” McDonald said.

“We’re looking in our community at trying to make it more sustainable by including more allied health professionals. We’re lucky enough to be part of a family health team, which really makes a big difference, but certainly there’s lots of challenges in trying to get family doctors.”

Sault Ste. Marie is in crisis mode after the Group Health Centre announced plans to de-roster 10,000 patients. Mayor Matthew Shoemaker said anything to make the position more attractive would be welcome news to patients in his community.

“This is begging for a provincial resolution,” Shoemaker said.

Burnout, high overhead costs

“The burnout of family doctors, costs not matching expenses many doctors have -- including nursing staff and administration staff -- that all has to be looked at in order to make family practice a more appealing type of practice.”

Shoemaker, a member of MPP Ross Romano’s task force for the Group Health Centre, said they plan to continue efforts with NOSM to establish a campus in the Sault.

CTV News reached out to the Minister of Health and received the following statement:

“Earlier this year, our government stood with the leadership of the Ontario Medical Association to announce the largest expansion of primary care in Ontario’s history. Our government will not be deterred by an interest group, from continuing to work with the OMA leadership to expand access to primary care and grow our health care workforce for years to come.”

“As Dr. Barber knows, physician compensation and structure are determined by the Physician Services Agreement, negotiated by the Ontario Medical Association and the ministry. We are currently in negotiations with the OMA for the new Physician Services Agreement and look forward to continued conversations at the table,” wrote the Minister’s Deputy Director of Communications Hannah Jensen.

“This government has not reached out to us, there has been no collaboration and I really don’t understand that,” said Barber. “They can’t fix the problem if they’re not willing to sit down with us.”

“There are some quick fixes that could really help the situation, at least stabilize it with this trend of family doctors leaving the profession. The government just needs to stop that outflow because it just exacerbates the whole problem,” he added. “It’s really, really scary to see what’s happening. We’re moving towards 1 in 4 people in Ontario not having a family doctor which means they don’t have access to the health care system and that’s not fair.”

Correction

This story has been updated to correct the number of unfilled family medicine spots.

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