Health Professional Recruitment Committee searching for new family physician

MAPLETON – The Minto-Mapleton Health Professional Recruitment Committee is on the hunt for a new physician in the area.

Dr. Christine Peterkin and Shirley Borges made a presentation at the Nov. 10 Mapleton council meeting.

Currently, there are nine physicians with the Minto-Mapleton Family Health Team and five nurse practitioners that see a total of 14,615 patients.

“Our practices are really at full capacity and we really worked with the physicians … over the past year and the physicians have agreed that we do need to bring at least one additional physician to our group,” Borges told council.

Currently, in rural Wellington County there are about 400 people looking for a family physician.

“There really is no room in any of our practices and so the pressure’s on us,” Borges said. “This is a little bit different of a situation this time because we don’t have a retiring physician to transfer a roster or a panel of patients to that physician.

“So, we as a community need to ensure that we have patients looking for a provider so that this physician, whoever that person may be, will have a panel of patients to look after.”

She said the Minto-Mapleton area is a great location to start a practice because new physicians often don’t want a full roster of patients at the beginning.

“They want to start gradually and build,” she said. “And so that matches our community perfectly because we’re not going to grow overnight by 1,000 patients.”

Another reason that Minto-Mapleton Family Health Team physician rosters are full is because there is also pressure from surrounding communities like Listowel, Wingham, Waterloo Region and even London, where patients are traveling the distance to see their doctor in Minto-Mapleton even though they don’t live in the immediate area.

However, Peterkin said the Minto-Mapleton Family Health Team is trying to “reign in our availabilities and really try to focus on, in terms of the kind of patients we’re recruiting, patients who really do meet the criteria for being in our catchment area.

“I think that’s also very important because I think once we start to take on patients from London, etcetera, we’re basically eating up opportunities for our locals to get care.”

Mayor Gregg Davidson agreed.

“It is important that we make sure the people in our community get a doctor locally and I’m glad to see that you guys at the clinic also recognize the fact that we need to start looking at preparing in the future to make sure that anybody that moves to town has a doctor in town.

“I think that’s important when we do any kind of recruiting to make sure we do that.”

Peterkin clarified there is a system in place to care for those patients who move to town and are in need of medical care for chronic diseases.

“They’re actually being linked up with physicians in the area who are taking them on as a temporary patient,” Peterkin said.

“The physicians have really stepped up in that sense to provide that degree of support for our communities and the wonderful thing is that when we do get our new recruit, then these folks will be poised to just roll over into that physician’s practice, which I think is great.

“We’re not leaving folks high and dry when they come to our area and are needing that care just because of the fact that we’re all full.”

Borges explained competition is steep to recruit a family physician to Minto and Mapleton.

“As hosting medical residents has always been our biggest source of physician recruitment, I’m happy to say that even in the midst of this pandemic we’ve been able to continue having learners visit our community with a new learner coming through every couple of months,” Peterkin said. “This has been accomplished through the help of virtual care options that have allowed us to easily integrate these folks into the care process when we’re tending to our patients from a distance.”

She said medical residents are often amazed by how easy it is to get things done in a small community and the collegiality between staff and specialists in the area.

Peterkin also said medical students may be good prospective physicians for the area.

“I think in speaking with our rural residents and our students, the majority are seeking practices that are group based, where they have opportunities to consult with fellow physicians and be supported in a collegial manner,” she said.

“They’re looking for opportunities for versatility in their practice and a chance to do a bit of everything.”

She also said it’s important to highlight potential job opportunities for the recruited physician’s spouse.

“There’s our recruitment piece, but then there’s also just being cognizant of community growth and opportunities like always looking at that end game of creating opportunities for everyone and not forgetting that when we recruit these physicians, often times they’re coming with a partner,” Peterkin said.

“So we can’t forget that piece in our recruitment effort.”

Going digital

Borges and Peterkin also highlighted the different online options being offered now due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think the value of virtual care has really come loud and true through COVID and that has been one of the gems in all the bad things in COVID,” Borges said.

Both the physicians and the patients seem to like the format.

“It sucks that it took a pandemic to get to this point, but I think we’ve all learned how to become a lot more creative and collaborative in our care,” Peterkin said.

“And the interesting thing … is patients are actually even more satisfied than they were before. They are getting timely care for their issues.”

Patients are able to message physicians directly and often get responses in the same day, Peterkin said.

“They’re able to check in with the physicians in either an audio form or a video form if they desire from the comfort of their own homes,” she said, adding the familiar home setting helps patients feel less anxious and more relaxed.

She also said she’s able to cover more ground in less time in these settings.

“We’re able to actually focus our energies when we see patients in clinics on the stuff that actually requires hands-on interaction because we’ve covered all the ground virtually,” Peterkin said.

“I don’t see us going back to just seeing patients in clinics.

“That’s not to say we’re never going to see patients in clinics, but I do feel that virtual care is going to be a very, very important tool in our tool box moving forward.”

Moving practices to more of a hybrid virtual/in-person format also opens up clinic space for a new physician at the Minto-Mapleton Family Health Team, Borges said.

Council passed a resolution to consider the Minto-Mapleton Health Professional Recruitment Committee request for $10,000 to go towards recruitment and retention during the 2021 budget deliberation.

North Wellington Community News