Physician recruiter hired to bring more doctors to Upper Ottawa Valley

The Upper Ottawa Valley (UOV) Medical Group, a physician recruitment group composed principally of doctors as well as the Pembroke Regional Hospital, has hired Debbie Robinson, former chair of the Upper Ottawa Valley Medical Recruitment Committee and Reeve of Laurentian Valley, to help bring new doctors to the area.

The group has successfully recruited 11 new physicians, but is looking for more.

The lack of primary care physicians in the area is not a new concept; at one point, about 10,000 or nearly a quarter of Petawawa, Pembroke and surrounding area residents were without a doctor.

“There is nothing more tragic than receiving a phone call from a mom with two little children who can’t get primary care,” said Petawawa Mayor Bob Sweet, “and that happened on a regular basis. We had to work through that and it was a difficult time for sure.”

In light of that, the Petawawa Centennial Family Health Centre was established and doctors recruited to help with the situation, but as the area ages and grows so does the need for primary health care.

“We don’t want to get in that mess again,” said Sweet.

Though better than years past, it still isn’t optimal.

According to statistics from Health Care Connect, the number currently hovers at 2,000 people in need of a family physician and unless things change, that number is expected to grow to about 10,000 in five years as the area’s population increases and as doctors leave the area, or retire.

Many doctors already have patient rosters of 5,000 and when they can no longer practice, that will leave thousands without a family doctor.

“When you are actually seeing people losing limbs because they have diabetes and they have no family and no one to take care of them, that is a driving force for all of us to be successful,” said Robinson.

The entire county is considered under-serviced by the province so it is vital that more doctors come to practice in the area and she stressed the need for patients to enrol in Health Care Connect, a program that helps match orphaned patients to doctors.

The UOV Medical Group is supported by the Petawawa Centennial Family Health Centre, the West Champlain Family Health Team, Pembroke’s Family Medicine Teaching Unit and the Whitewater Bromley Community Health Centre.

For more information on Health Care Connect, or to get on the waiting list, visit www.ontario.ca or call 1-800-445-1822.