GORE BAY – A meeting will be held within the next few weeks among Western Manitoulin municipalities (from Billings Township west) to look at what they can do together to recruit a new physician for the Gore Bay Medical Centre.
“There was a document circulated to other municipalities indicating what municipalities in other areas are offering through incentives to attract doctors to their areas, that we as Western Manitoulin could look at doing,” said Gore Bay Mayor Dan Osborne at a council meeting last week.
Gore Bay has sent letters to each municipality requesting support for a letter that has been sent to Mike Mantha, MPP for Algoma-Manitoulin, Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Ontario Minister of Health Christine Elliott, asking for support in recruiting a new physician at the Gore Bay Medical Centre. This has received support from Billings, Burpee and Mills and Gordon/Barrie Island thus far.
The letter from Mayor Osborne on behalf of council reads, “I am writing for assistance in recruiting a physician. The Town of Gore Bay is approaching a critical point with regards to access to healthcare in Western Manitoulin. By the spring of 2020, two doctors sharing a position at the Gore Bay Medical Centre will be retiring. The centre has not been successful to date with recruiting a physician. This means that we will be left with one doctor to care for our citizens. The remaining doctor has also indicated that she will not be able to continue on caring for her patients without a replacement doctor or at the very least the assistance of a nurse practitioner.”
“According to the Rural Institute of Ontario, compared to other Northern districts Manitoulin has seen steady population growth over the past 20 years, while other regions have had a decline in population. Manitoulin has grown by 20 percent which makes the region unique and, therefore, it can be argued that there is a greater need for doctors in the region,” wrote Mayor Osborne. He pointed out there are approximately 2,000 patients listed on the centre’s roster, plus additional patients not listed who are seasonal residents. The shortage of doctors will greatly impact patients’ access to quality care not only Gore Bay but in the entire Western Manitoulin region.”
“Incentives are needed immediately to successfully recruit a doctor to the Gore Bay Medical Centre. Although the Canadian Collaborative Task Force has been created under the College of Family Physicians of Canada and the Society of Rural Physicians of Canada and they have created the Rural Road Map for Action, we are at a point where we will soon be in a crisis regarding access to health care once the doctors at the Medical Health Centre retire in the spring.”
“The letters are one part, and we have a list of other areas and the incentive packages they have in place to recruit new doctors,” said Mayor Osborne. “I don’t expect any decisions to be made tonight, just take a look at the list and get an idea what you think we could offer,” he said, noting the Town of Blind River has provided, for example, a $100,000 loan to a new physician along with a signing bonus. Everyone in the area and beyond is offering incentives and up until now we haven’t offered anything.”
“Again, we are hopeful of not being alone in providing incentives and that the other municipalities will help out with support,” said Mayor Osborne.
“Providing an incentive of, say, $5,000, with each area sharing in the cost, is not unreasonable,” said Councillor Paulie Nodecker.
“It’s something that we need to look at and consider,” said Mayor Osborne. “We need to meet with the other municipalities to come up with figures and what we can provide in incentives to recruit a new doctor.”
Councillor Kevin Woestenenk said providing free rent for a new doctor is one thing that could be looked at.
“This would appeal to younger doctors,” said Councillor Ken Blodgett, “because they are not yet established. Free rent for an established doctor would probably not be enough.”
At a Gordon/Barrie Island council meeting last week, Reeve Lee Hayden told council he had sent a letter around to council members, indicating what other areas have provided in terms of incentives to recruit doctors to their area. He noted Mayor Osborne is scheduling a meeting at the end of February or early March for all Western Manitoulin municipalities and First Nations. “We definitely want to make sure we are on board for discussions; this is very important.”
“This is a critical issue for Western Manitoulin,” stated Burpee and Mills Township Councillor Art Hayden at a recent council meeting. “Absolutely critical.”
“I think everyone will be willing to sit down with Dan and the Town of Gore Bay and other municipalities and First Nations to look at what we can make for an offer to recruit a new doctor,” said Burpee and Mills Reeve Ken Noland.