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Growing family doctor shortage in Kitchener


The Ontario Medical Association is warning of a shortage of family doctors.

New numbers show the situation is getting worse, with 2.3 million people without a family doctor in the province.

In Kitchener, there is currently 55 open physician positions posted on the provincial recruitment platform, HealthForceOntario.

The Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce helps recruit physicians, with a specific recruiter paid to attract physicians to the community. The chamber said while it helps bring in between 10 to 14 new doctors a year, the number of retiring physicians often outweighs that amount.

“[There are] somewhere between 60,000 and 70,000 people in Waterloo Region right now who don't have access to a family doctor,” said Ian McLean, president and CEO of the Greater KW Chamber of Commerce.

“One doctor retires, you'll probably need at least two, if not two and a half, to fill the gap. So with population growth, retirements, the need just keeps getting more and more.

McLean said another issue is often new family physicians are not taking on the same patient loads as those retiring.

“So a doctor that is 65 or 70 and fully retiring, they might have a patient load of 2,500, 2,600 patients, a new doctor is not taking half of that," McLean said.

The OMA expects the number of Ontarians without a family doctor to nearly double in two years. It is calling on the province expand access to team-based care and reduce the burden of unnecessary administration facing doctors.

McLean said additional spots need to be opened to graduate more physicians and the province should be looking elsewhere for doctors.

“We are in a global shortage and we need to be recruiting from all around the world and that's something that we are doing more and more of,” McLean said.

According to the Ministry of Health, over 10,400 new physicians have been hired in Ontario since 2018. The ministry is working to bring in international and interprovincial workers.

“That is why we are investing tens of millions of dollars to launch the largest expansion of new interdisciplinary primary care teams. Further details around other successful applicants will be shared very soon,” Hannah Jensen, spokesperson for the Minister of Health, said in an email.

The ministry said it is negotiating the physician services agreement with the Ontario Medical Association. Top Stories

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