The physician recruitment program is safe. Council voted on Tuesday to continue funding the program, which has helped encourage doctors to settle in the Nickel City.
Ian Wood and Ryan Humeniuk, the city’s physician recruitment co-ordinator, said that while Sudbury has made strides in recruiting new doctors, physicians near retirement often have larger case loads than their younger peers.
“We have seen continued retirements,” Wood said. “Those family physicians have served us well through three or four decades.”
Humeniuk said those approaching retirement often have double the number of patients as their younger colleagues.
“Sometimes it takes two physicians to fill that void,” he said. “There are 31 physicians at this time with more than 30 years of practice. We are anticipating future retirements. We are slightly above the designated complement at this time, but really it’s also keeping in mind that we are facing some retirements coming up.”
Since its inception 10 years ago, 74 primary care physicians and three nurse practitioners have received recruitment incentives. That represents 64 per cent of the city’s 115 family doctors and provides access to primary health care to an estimated 102,000 residents.
The number of doctors in the city has risen, but there is still work to do.
“While this success has brought the supply of primary care practitioners up to the level appropriate for our city, staff anticipate three to four family physicians will retire each year in the coming decade, resulting in a need for additional recruits,” the report continued.
A few doctors have left or will leave the city soon, which will affect patients.
“Two family physicians have recently left the community following the completion of their return of service period and an additional two family physicians have recently announced their future plans to relocate by this fall due to various reasons,” the report stated.
Ward 12 Coun. Joscelyne Landry-Altmann said she was in favour of maintaining the program at current levels, which would continue “one-time funding for primary healthcare provider recruitment incentives, in the amount of $150,000, for consideration during the 2018 budget process.”
Were the budget to be halved, Wood said that would have reduced the number of physicians with which the city could have worked. Currently, the city offers grants of up to $20,000 to doctors who are willing to settle into a practice in Sudbury.
Evelyn Dutrisac, the councillor for Ward 4, agreed with her colleague and wanted to know if doctors are actively being recruited now.
“I’ve seen the results of these incentives, and when we’re talking about 31 docs retiring, for me, having a primary doctor is of great importance,” she said. “We need to maintain a high level of doctors and nurse practitioners.”
While he said he is happy to help out, Ward 6 Coun. Rene Lapierre reminded his colleagues that health care is a provincial issue. Recruiting physicians has become easier with the presence of the medical school in town and there is no longer an emergency in terms of physician numbers, Lapierre said, so he thought it may be prudent for the city to step back. He proposed slashing the recruitment budget by half, but later withdrew his amendment.