Family physicians are struggling to keep up with demand, Dr. Melanie Mar, a family doctor, lead physician for the Algonquin Family Health Team, and co-chair of a physician committee at Huntsville hospital told council on July 25.
“Our family doctors are maxed out and as our population is increasing, we’re really struggling to look after a fairly large and increasing unattached population. The wait time right now is about two years. So, if you come on board and you’re looking for a family doctor you’re going to probably wait at least that long,” said Mar.
An increasing number of people who have moved or are moving to the area as a result of COVID as well as those retiring to the area is putting further strain on an already fragile system, council heard.
“The unattached patient population in Huntsville is currently estimated to be around 1,700 and continues to grow with more people relocating to Muskoka,” stated part of a resolution submitted by Mar put before council for approval.
Mar said many patients are not receiving preventative care or help to manage existing chronic illnesses and they’re winding up sicker and seeking care at the hospital Emergency Room (ER), which is overwhelming ER doctors who are having to discharge patients who often wind up returning because they don’t have a family doctor to guide them after discharge. Others are having to travel out of town or rely on virtual care services which can be suboptimal.
“And so, in speaking with my physician colleagues we are trying to do our best to care for our community and looking at creative ways to do that,” said Mar who also noted that it’s a community problem that requires more than just the family physicians to solve.
“We all want to come together with different partners, not just family doctors but the hospital, the Ontario Health Team, and hopefully the Town and find creative ways to look after our community so that we aren’t sending all these people to Emerg…”
She said interim initiatives such as a year-round walk-in clinic are being explored while physician recruitment is ramped up.
Huntsville council agreed to support in principle any temporary measure to help alleviate physician shortages in the community and directed the CAO to continue working with “appropriate healthcare partners to determine the level of contribution required from the Town in order to support this initiative.”
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