The City of Kingston has welcomed new family physicians to the community, as part of the Family Physician Recruitment Incentive Program.
In 2021, City Council approved funding for the Family Physician Recruitment Incentive Program. According to a release from the City, the program officially launched in January 2022 and, since its implementation, it has successfully attracted nine new physicians who will practice family medicine in the city.
“We’re so happy to welcome our newest family physicians to the community,” said Mayor Bryan Paterson at the Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022 event welcoming the doctors to Kingston. “Providing access to health care and reducing waitlist times for residents has been a top priority for City staff, and the results of their innovative recruitment efforts will benefit people across the community,” he added.
At an event earlier in the day, Mayor Paterson spoke to the media about the exciting news alongside Craig Desjardins, Director of Strategy, Innovation and Partnerships with the City, Dr. Michael Green from the Queen’s University Family Health Team, and Dr. Joy Hataley, Ontario Medical Association District 7 Chair. Desjardins explained the innovative recruitment plan unique to Kingston.
“The program offers a $100,000 financial incentive, paid out over five years, to physicians who sign a return of service agreement with the City,” he said. “To qualify, physicians must practice family medicine and roster patients.”
Kingston, like municipalities across the province and country, has experienced a “concerning shortage” of family doctors, according to the release. In 2019, Council approved the development of a Family Physician Supply Plan for the city, which assessed this shortage and developed a process to address it.
“Through research, creative thinking, and collaboration, the City has successfully brought nine new and talented family doctors to our area, but we recognize this is just a start,” Desjardins continued.
“Since the onset of the pandemic, however, we know of seven family physicians who have retired. We have been able to help mitigate a potentially disastrous situation of adding to the list of residents without family doctors. However, if we are to achieve our ultimate goal of every resident having access to a family doctor, we will need support from our partners.”
The City of Kingston said that it is calling on the federal and provincial governments to lead the recruitment and retention of family physicians in Kingston and across the Province. Municipalities do not have the appropriate revenues to sustain health care needs, the municipality said, and while the City is investing millions in health care, it is in turn not spending these funds on municipal services, such as roads or parks.
“While the City of Kingston stepped outside its lane to address an urgent and ongoing need, it’s time for all levels of government to come to the table to solve this problem that affects the majority of Ontario municipalities,” said Mayor Paterson. “We are ready to meet with the province, federal government, or do whatever it takes to help ensure that our community has a roster of family physicians to care for our community.”
“Today has been a long time coming,” noted Deb Lefebvre, a Mental Health Nurse who runs also a small consulting firm, Lefebvre and Associates. “And despite what we’re hearing from our provincial government, Kingston is an area that needs physicians. We identified a high level of retiring physicians, so it’s absolutely phenomenal to see the partnerships that are ongoing here, and the work that has been done to date. And I think there’s going to be more.”
Lefebvre, along with Dr. Veronica Legnini, were approached by the City to create a report on the local physician shortage. “Our report revealed… nearly 29,000 people were unattached [to a family physician],” Lefebvre explained in an interview with Kingstonist. “And there are roughly 45,000 people who are rostered here in the city with various physicians who do not live within the City of Kingston.”
This reflects on the lack of physicians across the province — Lefebvre suggested that previous Kingston residents perhaps cannot find a physician when they leave the area, and so continue to see a Kingston physician, despite living in another area.
“An investment in primary care is certainly an investment in patient health outcomes,” Lefebvre stated. “We know that having access to primary care improves people’s health. When we look at the health care crisis that we see today, if we can get people to see their physicians, with the development of the Ontario health teams, [and] having them connected, we should see some improvement in the number of ER visits, patient health outcomes, their overall level of wellness and wellbeing.”