Closure of two Erin practices leads to local ‘health care crisis’

The recent closure of two Erin medical practices has left about 3,600 residents without a family physician, in what the East Wellington Fam­ily Health Team is calling a local “health care crisis.”

Erin was already designated an underserviced area for physicians by the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care.

And the closure of the practices of Dr. Sharon Sasaki in Erin village  and Dr. John  Treil­hard in Hillsburgh means Erin has lost an additional 40% of its capacity to provide local primary care.

Dr. Sasaki’s decision was based on a personal medical reasons, while Dr. Treil­hard is leaving to practice in the GTA.

As a result, many residents have been forced to visit emergency rooms or walk-in clinics for even the most basic health care needs.

“We’re very concerned about the shortage of family doctors,” said Rachel Ingram, of the EWFHT board of directors. To help address the problem right now, the FHT is trying to refer patients to doctors in other areas, like Georgetown and Orangeville.

Copies of a list of doctors accepting patients can be obtained at Dr. Sasaki’s office, at the town office, or at the office of Dr. Duncan Bull on Wellington road 52.

Bull told the Advertiser he is now one of just two full-time family doctors in the municipality (in addition to one part-time doctor), when the province has stated Erin should have six full-time physicians.

Bull did accept a lot of new patients between last September and February, but like the entire FHT, he can no longer accept anyone else.

The team is currently trying to improve Erin’s doctor recruitment strategy, along with the municipality.

“We have to do something,” Erin Mayor Rod Finnie said at a council meeting on April 1. 

Finnie told council that Erin’s county councillor, Lou Maie­ron, is trying to arrange a meeting as soon as possible between officials from neighbouring Guelph-Eramosa Township, the county, and the EWFHT to discuss the crisis.

That discussion, Finnie said, will cover the “bricks and mortar” side of the problem, which will help attract more doctors to the area. But more needs to be done in the area of doctor recruitment, he added.

Finnie said he has been talking to Centre Wellington Mayor Joanne Ross-Zuj about Erin’s doctor shortage because Centre Wellington’s physician recruitment committee has been very successful in the past. Part of that success has been expanding committee mem­bership beyond health care and municipal officials to include representatives from the real estate and education sectors, Finnie explained.

“We definitely have to start moving on that,” he said.

Finnie also noted that, unlike the Centre Wellington group, Guelph’s committee for recruiting doctors to the city and to Wellington County has not been very successful.

Councillor Barb Tocher said if that’s the case, the town should be listening to any advice Ross-Zuj can provide. Tocher suggested the first step should be for the town to take an inventory of exactly what facilities and how much space is available for any prospective physicians.

Information regarding other physicians accepting new patients is listed at www.­cpso.­ or can be obtained through the EWFHT office.