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VIDEO: How to solve the doctor shortage plaguing northern Ontario

Village Media has produced a mini documentary about the health care crisis in the north, which has forced emergency rooms to close and left thousands of patients in limbo

In recent months, headline after headline has shone a spotlight on the doctor shortage plaguing northern Ontario. 

Whether it’s a rural hospital forced to close its emergency room, or thousands of patients being dumped at once by the Group Health Centre in Sault Ste. Marie, the lack of primary care physicians in the north has reached a crisis level.

At last count, communities in northern Ontario are actively recruiting more than 350 physicians, including 200 family doctors. And with half the physicians in the north expected to retire in the next five years, the situation will only get worse.

INSIDE THE VILLAGE: When your town runs out of doctors

“Ontario’s rural and northern communities face profound physician shortages due to chronic recruitment and retention challenges,” said Dr. Andrew Park, the president of the Ontario Medical Association (OMA), in a recent news release. “That means patients face persistent inequities in the care they receive and in their health outcomes, compared to people living in other parts of the province. We need to attract more doctors to the north and support them so they will stay here and we can begin to address those health gaps.”

To gain a better understanding of the problem — and what can be done to help turn the tide — Village Media videographers Drew Armstrong and Zack Trunzo conducted in-depth interviews with three northern doctors working on the front lines of the crisis:

• Dr. Mike Cotterill, a family physician with the Wawa Family Health Team.

• Dr. Sarah Newbery, an Associate Dean at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine.

• Dr. Edward Hirvi, a family physician at the Group Health Centre and vice-chair of Group Health's board of directors.

You can watch the mini documentary above.

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