Durham health care program set to bring more family doctors to Ontario

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Published July 2, 2024 at 12:13 pm

lakeridge health

A new host of Queen’s University medical students are set to begin their practical training at Lakeridge Health Oshawa as the hospital’s innovative training program enters its second year.

Classes are set to resume at the end of August for the unique Queen’s-Lakeridge Health MD Family Medicine Program. The first-in-Canada program is designed specifically to train new family doctors to address the national shortage.

Lakeridge Health’s Deputy Chief of Staff and Chief of Academic Affairs and Research, Dr. Nadia Ismiil, told insauga.com she was “very excited” to welcome the first group in 2023.

She stressed the program’s importance in addressing the doctor shortage, saying, “We know that when people have access to primary care, communities thrive and succeed. The shortage of family doctors in Ontario and Canada is critical and requires a bold and new collaborative approach. We believe that this program holds tremendous promise to increase access to primary care in Durham Region.”

Everybody involved in the program is already committed to practicing as a family doctor as their major practice.

The state of family medicine in Ontario is in crisis, with the Ontario College of Family Physicians forecasting that a quarter of Ontarians (or about 4.4 million people) will be without one by 2026.

As it stands, nearly 44,000 people in Durham Region are without a doctor (roughly the combined population of Uxbridge and Scugog). This number will increase as doctors become more scarce and the Durham population balloons to 1.5 million by 2031.

Dr. Kamila Premji of INSPIRE-Primary Health Care led a study last year which found that “family physicians of all ages and career stages are choosing not to practice comprehensive family medicine.” This research led the college to call on the Ontario Government to increase the number of family doctors.

Despite little movement from the province at the time, Lakeridge Health and Queen’s University collaborated to design and implement this program to train new doctors in the field.

Others have since followed suit, including Queen’s Park, which will establish a new school at York University specifically to train family doctors. This latest move was announced in March when Finance Minister and Pickering-Uxbridge MPP Peter Bethlenfalvy presented his 2024 budget.

Now, the pioneering Lakeridge-Queens partnership is entering its second year.

“The first cohort of 20 students is done,” Lakeridge Public Relations Manager Sharon Navarro told insauga.com.

“They’re going to be entering their second year in August. We’re also, at the same time, welcoming a brand-new class.”

“This is something that’s very needed,” Navarro continued, “People are asking for primary care in Durham Region. It’s one of the sustainable solutions. It’s not the only solution but it’s one of the most sustainable solutions born in Durham Region.”

“The first year wrapped up not even a month ago,” added Communications Advisor Donna McTeague, “and we’re going to start gearing up for 20 new medical students, which is very exciting. It’s a very unique program in how it’s designed.”

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