Clarington spending $100,000 to attract more doctors to town

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Published February 16, 2023 at 10:40 am

The accelerated growth in Clarington that has turned a community with one small town and a handful of hamlets into a booming municipality with more than 100,000 residents has created a problem: a severe lack of doctors.

Clarington Council is trying to solve that issue with an $100,000 infusion from the just-completed 2023 budget dedicated to physician recruitment.

More is needed: Dr. Tony Stone, a former Chief of Staff at Lakeridge Health who has a practice in Bowmanville, paid a visit to Council during budget deliberations with an ask of $500,000 on behalf of the Clarington Board of Trade (CBOT).

CBOT Executive Director Sheila Hall said the $100,000 investment by Clarington is a good start.

“It is time for the community to collaborate and create a plan to mitigate this growing shortage of primary health care providers. This is the first step to implementing a long-term program to bring more family doctors to our area,” she said.

Doctor shortages is a problem plaguing many towns in Durham Region and across Ontario (particularly in smaller and more remote communities) and even inspired a vastly underrated fish-out-of-water television comedy of the 1990s called Northern Exposure.

The 2023 recruitment program in Durham takes inspiration from a similar project operated between 2007 and 2017 that used an investment of $440,000 to attract 25 new family doctors, providing 30,000 Clarington residents access to family health care close to home.

The next year Clarington was designated a high-needs area in Ontario for doctors, a classification that has helped with recruitment, Hall said, but is not enough. The designation will come to an end this year.

Council and the CBOT believe taking the proactive step of funding the doctor recruitment program to keep up with the community’s population growth and the competition for family doctors across the province is necessary because a growing number of Clarington residents have no family physician. Sixty per cent of the 100,000 visits to urgent care clinics in the community are from patients with no local family doctor, according to a letter to Council from the CBOT in proposing the program.

That’s up “significantly” from approximately 43 per cent in 2018.

The recruitment program will be initiated through a working group of local physicians and the CBOT, who will collectively come up with an action plan. Once the plan is complete, the funds will flow through the Board of Trade.

The funds for the program will come from Clarington’s Economic Development Reserve Fund.

Lakeridge Health Bowmanville

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