Municipality supports doctor retention program

Chatham-Kent council is hoping to solve the “urgent problem” of a lack of family doctors in the area.

A totalĀ of $100,000 has been allocated for discussion in the 2019 budget talks in support of reinstating a primary care practitioner recruitment and retention program.

Chatham-Kent’s current rate of family doctors is 76.9 per 100,000 population. The provincial average is 109.4 per 100,000.

Councillor Trevor Thompson was behind the motion to put the $100,000 in the budget.

“It was something I wasn’t attuned to until the election campaign. One thing I heard a little bit about was it was hard finding a family doctor but the longer the campaign went on, this was something everyone was interested in talking about it and it all became apparent to me how much of a crisis situation we’re actually in,” said Thompson.

Thompson said throughout the campaign about a third of the people he spoke to didn’t have a family doctor. He also noticed many people he spoke to had to travel to other communities to get to their doctor.

According to Thompson, in 2017, over 46 per cent of Chatham residents and about 59 per cent of Rural Kent residents reported they visited the emergency room for something that could have been treated by a family doctor. Although doctor recruitment is generally something the provincial government deals with rather than municipal, Thompson said the municipality has to do all it can to stop from falling behind on the matter.

“The health of the community is vitally important. EMS services are our responsibility and there’s very little that’s cheap that we can do to address that,” said Thompson. “This is a way we can keep people out of ambulances, by finding more family doctors. It’s so important to the future of our community.”

Thompson said he hopes to see the Erie St. Clair Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) work with the municipality and provide funding to the program.

Another person in support of the program and who hopes to receive financial help from the LHIN is Councillor Joe Faas.

“I’m involved with doctor recruitment in Dresden and it’s an ongoing battle trying to recruit doctors. It’s a real urgent problem that we’re all facing and I think we need to do all we can to encourage recruitment,” said Faas.