Greater Sudbury has had great success attracting family doctors to the city in recent years, but city councillors are still reluctant to end the incentive program designed to attract them here.
A motion by Ward 6 Coun. Rene Lapierre to slash the budget from $150,000 to $75,000 was eventually withdrawn at Tuesday’s city council meeting. But Lapierre said the expenditure is a form of downloading, since health isn’t a municipal responsibility.
“Healthcare is a provincial issue,” he said, in arguing for reducing the budget. “We’ve had excellent success with (the Northern School of Medicine.
“It’s one thing when there’s a crisis (but) the crisis is slowly going away.”
Since it began in 2007, the Primary Healthcare Provider Recruitment and Retention Program has helped attract 74 doctors to Sudbury. While new doctors generally have a much smaller patient rosters than older ones, by the end of 2017 the city should have 125 family doctors. Under provincial guidelines, we need 115.
While another 11 are set to begin practice over the next three years, three to four a year are expected to retire, said Ryan Humeniuk, the city’s physician recruitment coordinator.
“Sometime it takes two physicians to fill the void of the retiring physicians,” Humeniuk said.
“It is important to note that family physicians who are retiring have patient rosters averaging (more than) 2,500 patients, while those starting practice are rostering between 1,000-1,500 patients,” a staff report on the matter said. “Based on these estimates, considering the gain of 11 family physicians along with the loss of established practices due to attrition, if further physician recruitment efforts were to cease, the community could expect to have 112 family physicians servicing patients by 2023, essentially 13 less family physicians than practicing at the end of 2017.”
With that in mind, councillors should maintain the fund, especially “with our aging demographic,” Landry-Altmann said.
The fund has ranged from a high of $500,000 in 2010, to a low of $0 in 2016, when it was funded by leftover amounts from previous years.
It’s used for ongoing support for new doctors, such as helping new medical students/medical residents and physicians find suitable accommodations, employment opportunities for spouses and schools/activities for their children.
It also provides doctors and nurse practitioners with financial incentives, such as a $20,000 bursary for those who commit to practice family medicine in Greater Sudbury, and a $15,000 incentive for doctors who opens a family practice in any of the outlying communities located within the City of Greater Sudbury. There’s also a $10,000 incentive for those who join one of the City of Lakes Family Health Teams.
Councillors voted to have staff prepare a business case for the $150,000 in time for 2018 budget deliberations.