Need a family doc? You are not alone

About 40,000 Barrie area residents don't have a family doctor

Is there a doctor in the house?

For 40,000 Barrie area residents in need of a family doctor, the answer is no. The catchment includes Innisfil, Oro-Medonte and Springwater.

Like millions of Canadians who are without a family physician, it means a lack of continual care that having a general practitioner provides, and decisions about whether to access an emergency department or walk-in clinics to meet their health-care needs.

Dr. Stu Murdoch is a family physician in Barrie and head of Royal Victoria Hospital’s Family Medicine Teaching Unit (FMTU).

The FMTU started in 2009 as an official teaching site of the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Medicine, a last stop for medical residents who are training to become family doctors.

“We started with four residents, and then we’ve ramped up, and we now have 18 residents,” says Murdoch.

The hope is that when these residents complete their 24-month training they will remain and practice their profession in the Barrie area.

“We have approximately 3,000 patients under the care of our family medicine residents,” explains Murdoch. “We have shown that approximately 60 per cent of our graduates will stay in our general Barrie-area catchment area practicing primary care, but we do train them to be our emergency physicians to do our palliative care and hospitalist medicine.”

Nurse practitioners are also part of the FMTU.

“They work with other team members that include family physicians, but also diabetic educators, pharmacists, and dieticians,” says Murdoch. “They’re all part of our team-based care, and we think this is the model that is going to keep primary care moving forward.”

There are a number of factors for the family doctor shortage according to Corrine Maxwell, who is the Barrie area Physician Recruitment Coordinator.

“We are seeing many primary care physicians looking to retire or change their model of practice, and there are some factors with the pandemic that have encouraged these decisions for family physicians,” says Maxwell. “Some of those closer to retirement have very large rosters, so for any incoming physicians it often takes more than one to take over a practice.”

She says there has also been less interest in family medicine. Other factors include burnout and administrative demands.

So, where does someone turn to when they need medical care that isn’t an emergency?

Walk-in clinics are the best bet, and Murdoch says to avoid the emergency department unless your condition is urgent.

Need a family doctor? Maxwell recommends these options:

If you don’t have a family doctor and your medical issue is not urgent: