Health services loses doctors

Three part-time physicians hired to offset shortage

Dr. Hugh Langley says recent renovations have made the clinic a more appealing place to work.
Dr. Hugh Langley says recent renovations have made the clinic a more appealing place to work.

Four physicians have left Health, Counselling and Disability Services (HCDS) in the past year.

“We had one [physician] who was on contract until the middle of March, and she left. Someone was on contract until May, and two [physicians] haven’t returned yet,” said Dr. Mike Condra, HCDS director. “One will return in the fall, one in January.”

Condra said he can’t disclose physicians’ reasons for leaving, but noted the difficulty in recruiting physicians at a time when the province is in the midst of a shortage.

“It’s difficult to find physicians. There just aren’t enough to go around; there is a real shortage,” Condra said. “We are sorry when people decide they can only commit for a short period of time.”

Dr. Hugh Langley, a physician at HCDS, said it will take some adjustment for both staff and students until a full slate of physicians are available to work.

“Things just aren’t going to be done as fast as they have been done in the past, but we’re going to try and get them done.”

Langley said HCDS is still recruiting doctors both locally and across the country, but it’s difficult because of the wide range of practicing option available to doctors in Kingston.

Langley said the space at the HCDS LaSalle building wasn’t always attractive to physicians.

“One concern, which has been addressed, is that the space of the centre was such that when you were seeing patients in the morning and in the afternoon, you only had one room to work with,” he said, adding that this was with recent $400,000 renovations to the clinic.

The renovations will also help HCDS deal with the doctor shortage by allowing the clinic to accommodate more patients.

“We did some internal remodeling in which we created more examination rooms,” said Condra. “We set aside four rooms for the urgent care area.”

Condra said this new system is designed to provide students with immediate care and minimize waiting time.

“We reorganized our system so that [students] can walk in to the urgent care clinic and typically be seen within a day,” he said. “It’s easier to see a physician than it was a year ago.” Condra said the four additional examination rooms will allow students to have faster access to a nurse or a physician when they’re sick.

“They can typically get seen much faster than if they had called to book an appointment.”

Langley said a student health clinic is an appealing place to work for many doctors.

“It’s an interesting population of patients and a really nice environment to work in,” he said. “But in terms of the number of physicians to the number of students at Queen’s, we’re not ideal.”

Langley said remodelling has helped eased the influx of patients, but is not a permanent solution.

“We’ve got enough now with the urgent care centre to keep things running smoothly but we can always use more.”

The amount of time students must wait before they can see a healthcare professional also depends on how many staff are available on any given day.

“It depends on how much work they are doing each week—some work half days, some work three days a week,” Condra said.

A total of 11 physicians are currently working for HCDS, but Langley said the hours they work are the equivalent of about 2.5 to three doctors working full weeks. The most any doctor works is three full days—about 30 hours.

At about one three-hour shift every one to two weeks, Langley said he’s working the least amount of hours of any of the HCDS’s doctors.

“We ended up this September slightly reduced … but it’s not really as serious as we thought,” he said.

Although HCDS has been running smoothly, Condra said the shortage of healthcare professionals in Ontario is a growing problem. “It’s become more of an occurrence across the province over the last five or six years,” he said. “It’s estimated that more than 10,000 people in Kingston are without a family doctor.”

To rectify the situation, Condra said HCDS is always searching for physicians available to work.

“We are recruiting, and continue to recruit.”

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