Stop the bleeding

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Minden’s urgent care clinic was forced to close its doors Jan. 15 – the first time since going full-time Oct. 3.

They are operating with one full-time nurse practitioner and they need two. The Kawartha North Family Health Team is continuing to attempt to recruit another. In the meantime, they are doing their best to juggle their part-timers’ schedules.

HHHS, meanwhile, is still not where it wants to be with staffing. It is spending a lot of time scheduling, and a lot of money, on locum physicians for the ER. These are people who come to cover shifts but don’t stick around.

And while HHHS has reduced its dependency on agency nursing – they still recruited and paid for 59, 12-hour shifts in December.

It’s time-consuming and costly – but more importantly – it means patients are not being seen or not being seen as timely as they could be.
The KNFHT runs a pretty tight ship and there is no doubt new management at HHHS is cleaning up dodge.

So, it’s time the provincial government stepped up to the plate. Past time.

While Doug Ford’s Conservatives are busy fiddling – moving Service Ontario outlets into Staples’ stores and planning the closures of others (we don’t have Staples and Service Ontario has been targeted here in the past) – the health care system is burning.

They have been presented with numerous solutions from various fronts.

Part of the reason a family doctor might not want to move to Haliburton County is the workload. If we are telling candidates about a work-life balance in the beautiful Highlands, then we have to offer it. So, how about getting two doctors for the price of one and allowing part-time work. In the case of older physicians perhaps seeking a lifestyle change, this could work in the County. Put in your three days and then spend four at the cottage. The province can change this with a stroke of a pen.

The government could get rid of the line it has drawn between southern and northern Ontario, and treat regional and rural communities in the near north – places like us – as underserviced areas. Bump up our numbers of required physicians.

Increase the number of medical students in the province. Ontario has announced it is adding 160 undergrad seats and 295 postgrad positions to medical schools over the next five years, 71 for up north. That number could increase.

Physicians and chiefs of staff have plenty of ideas if the Ontario government would only listen.

I can understand how a new physician might be overwhelmed when faced with a patient suffering from a condition they have no experience with, and no specialist on-site. Why not provide rural and remote ER doctors with real-time virtual access to specialists?

How about funding for travel and accommodations for medical residents to take elective rotations in rural communities such as ours. It should not be the County that is responsible for housing these folks.

Some have suggested that when a locum travels to regions, they should be required to bring a resident physician from their home institution.

Another suggestion, this one for the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, is that they need to make it easier to license international medical school grads who want to work in rural and remote areas.

And there should absolutely be more incentives and return-of-service obligations to bring physicians to places such as Haliburton County.
The crisis is not going away. It is time for the Ford government to stop the bleeding.