ERIN – A staffing shortage at East Wellington Family Health Team (EWFHT) has left several patients without a physician.
A recent letter from EWFHT, which hosts clinics in Erin and Rockwood, notified patients the organization has been struggling to cover a physician’s absence.
“It is no secret that Ontario and other Canadian provinces are experiencing a health human resource crisis,” states the letter from EWFHT executive director Kim Bell.
Despite recruitment attempts to fill the temporary vacancy of one of its physicians, EWFHT has not been able to find someone to cover the absent physician’s patients, starting Aug. 1.
“While we will continue to search for physicians who may provide some measure of interim care for [our patients,] what we do know is that we have no patient-facing care options for the month of August,” Bell wrote.
The letter noted test results and urgent care will continue to be covered, but regular care patients have been asked to otherwise access walk-in-clinics for acute needs that cannot be met through Saturday clinics.
According to the Ontario Medical Association at least one million Ontarians do not have regular access to primary care and that shortage is especially acute in northern and rural areas, states a July 29 press release from EWFHT.
The College of Family Physicians of Canada also notes Canada is facing a shortage of family doctors.
“Nobody expects physicians to become ill, but we are as susceptible as anyone, sometimes even more so given our regular contact with sick patients, and the increasing demands and stress placed on family physicians,” states EWFHT lead physician Dr. Rabia Khan in the release.
“What is expected of our health care system is that when a doctor is ill, we should just be able to replace them with another. Try as we might, it isn’t always possible.”
EWFHT noted that until this point, coverage of the absent physician’s roster has been managed by a Locum, or substitute physician, since the leave began in January.
But with “a combination of the physician shortage and exhausted doctors needing a long-awaited break in the summer, coverage for August was not possible, despite numerous efforts,” the team explained.
“The EWFHT is a responsible employer supporting staff health following an incredibly strained two years. Not only are we required by law to support the health and well-being of our employees, it is the right thing to do. While we deeply regret that patients are being inconvenienced, we are doing our level best to ensure that there is continuity of care for all of them.”
The EWFHT has made the following arrangements:
- prescriptions will continue to be renewed by asking your pharmacist to send a renewal request to the EWFHT clinic, allowing two to three days for processing;
- doctors will continue to receive and review blood work and other test results already ordered. If any results require discussion, patients will be contacted by a physician by phone or email if EWFHT has consent to communicate by email; and
- patients may continue to access EWFHT’s Saturday clinics for acute needs such as things like suspected strep throat, urinary tract infections, etc.
Saturday scheduling and locations can be accessed at www.ewfht.ca.
For all other care needs, at least in the month of August, EWFHT asks that patients access a walk-in clinic in their area.
Walk-ins can be found at www.ewfht.ca.