Local doctor recruiting efforts showing some success

'Gartshore House' has hosted 32 visiting doctors since last June

FERGUS – Residents of Centre Wellington are reaping the benefits of the township lending an old farmhouse to Groves Memorial Community Hospital’s search for doctors.

Dr. Sarah Gower, a local family physician and member of the hospital’s physician recruitment team, told council on Feb. 12 that 32 visiting doctors used the house, dubbed “Gartshore House,” while serving as locums at the hospital in 2023.

The farmhouse is located on Gartshore Street in Fergus on land the township purchased to build a new operations centre.

Since the house was in good shape and the operations centre is still a few years from being constructed, the township, with council approval, offered it as a place for visiting doctors to stay. It opened for that purpose last June.

“It’s been extremely popular,” Gower said, adding many of the locum doctors return for one- or two-week placements because accommodation is provided.

“They want to keep their foot in rural medicine” and the house, which can accommodate four visitors at a time, “has been an enormous help to us,” she added.

That said, it’s still a challenge to attract doctors to live and practice here.

“There continues to be a shortage, particularly of family doctors,” Gower noted.

“Twenty per cent fewer medical students are choosing family medicine and they are not taking on full-time practice. So it will be a tricky few years.”

Still, the search has been fruitful:

  • one new family physician has come to the community in the last 12 months;
  • two full-time general surgeons will join the staff of Groves by the summer of 2024;
  • two new obstetrician/gynecologists are locating in the township, bringing the total to four by the summer;
  • a new GP anesthetist at Groves hospital will also support the Palmerston and Mount Forest hospitals;
  • Groves has managed to fill the schedule for hospitalists, who care for in-patients who don’t have a local family doctor;
  • additional ER physicians are covering shifts, “and that has stopped us from having to close,” Gower said. Some are from other hospitals, some are new grads “trying us out;” and
  • lots of medical learners are attending at Groves, from co-op students to residents.

Gower said the hospital is also working with larger networks to recruit international graduates.

“Even though we’re competing with each other for doctors, we’re working together too,” she said.