Council okays $10,000 for doctor recruitment in North Wellington

According to a recent report, northern Wellington County is short four family physicians, leaving about 5,500 residents in Minto, Mapleton, and Wellington North without a local family doctor.
And of the family physicians currently practicing in the area, nine will likely retire within the next five years, the North Wellington Health Care (NWHC) report states.
“Add to this the trend for new physicians to carry lower patient loads, and our doctor shortage is undeniably more critical than ever,” the report continues.
As a result, the Minto Map­leton Health Professional Re­cruitment Committee, along with the Mount Forest and Area Physician Recruitment Committee, annually requests financial support from local municipalities.
This year the committees have requested $10,000 each from Mapleton, Minto, and Well­ington North, as well as $5,000 from Southgate Town­ship (whose residents regularly use services at Louise Marshall Hospital in Mount Forest).
After some debate last week, Mapleton council has approved $10,000 for the Min­to Mapleton committee.
Mayor John Green said at the March 11 meeting the town­ship contributed the same sum last year, but only “after much deliberation.”
Councillor Bruce Whale  inquired about the success of the committee, considering nine doctors in the area are close to retirement.
Mayor John Green replied that everyone in the province is competing for doctors, so it i hard to measure the success of the committee.
“This is like an elastic band. You never know how successful you’ll be until the doctor arrives,” Green said.
He explained that the committee also works to bring nurse practitioners to the area, and that’s why it is no longer referred to simply as a “doctor recruitment committee.”
But Whale said he has doubts about the $10,000 donation, especially considering the committee has successfully recruited just two physicians in the last five years.
Councillor Dennis Craven said perhaps that is proof the committee needs continued sup­port, and perhaps more,  from municipalities.
Green noted there are other incentives available to doctors once they arrive, but the $10,000 would go towards the recruitment process only, which includes travelling to recruitment fairs as well as costs to bring potential recruits to the community.
He suggested council either approve the financial support, or do what it did last year and consult with other municipalities to get some feedback.
Whale said if other councils are for it, he too, would support the donation.
“I think it’s worthwhile,” Whale said. “But to me it’s an exercise in frustration in terms of what we’re competing with.”
Councillor Mike Downey has no problem with supporting the recruitment committee.
“It’s a buck a person,” Downey said, referring to the relation between the $10,000 and Mapleton’s population of about 9,850.
Council unanimously ap­proved the donation (councillor Jim Curry was absent).
According to the NWHC report, Ontario is short over 1,000 physicians, leaving approximately 1.4 million residents without a family doctor. By 2010, it is predicted the province will be short about 2,500 doctors.
Rural Ontario Medical Program statistics show that two new physicians in a community employ an average of three nurses, expand hospital services by one additional nurse, generate about 10 additional jobs in the community, and contribute $1-million to $2-million in economic growth a year.