It’s time to restock the shelves.
With a shortage of doctors across Canada, and Cambridge deemed underserved, according to the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, the restart of the Rural Ontario Medical Program (ROMP) is coming at a critical juncture.
The five-day ROMP week, from May 29 to June 2, in which 10 first-year medical students come to town to receive hands-on experience with doctors and specialists and gain an introduction to the community, has been a successful tool in the past to recruit doctors. Two participants in 2017 are now doctorates at Cambridge.
This is the first ROMP week — this time with Queen’s University students — since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a presentation to the city council on May 9, Donna Gravelle, recruitment coordinator for Doctors4Cambridge, said her group has recruited more than 120 family doctors to the city since 1999. ROMP Week is just one tool in the toolbox for bringing in doctors.
Currently, he says, there are 88 full-time primary care doctors practicing in the city and the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care says, based on population, the ideal number is 108.
Gravelle noted since January 2020, 12 doctors in the Family Health Organization model left their practice and four have not been replaced, leaving “patients orphaned.” In addition, three doctors will leave their Cambridge practice in 2023, with a potential additional three retirees.
He said doctors left for a variety of reasons, including retirement, early and unexpected retirement, switching from family medicine to other areas of medicine, leaving the field entirely and, in one case he claimed, a new doctor faced racism in society. .
Gravelle added Cambridge had been considered a “high need” for doctors, since before the pandemic.
“We still really need doctors,” Gravelle said.
“Everyone is suffering and there are more recruiting efforts going on in big cities like never before. This of course increases the competition.”
Gravelle said the ROMP week would help raise Cambridge’s profile in terms of running with other cities for doctors. Admittedly, at first, Cambridge was not at the top of the list for ROMP week by school.
“Now number 1, because medical students who have been here before say they had a really great week here, very immersive experience. So, it’s definitely one of the top for students to choose now to do their one week rotation.
This week isn’t all work out for the students, with tours of Langdon Hall and the Gaslight District, canoeing the Grand River with Ancient Seafarers, and participating in a downtown scavenger hunt. However, in their field, they will shadow family doctors and specialists at Cambridge Memorial Hospital, and participate in suturing clinics.
Gravelle says the city is doing a good job selling itself to aspiring doctors, both current and future doctors.
“I think the reason we did it is because of what we offer: the size of our community; the fact that we only have one hospital, so the family doctors know the specialists; this is a whole new hospital,” said Gravelle.
“One thing I know that many doctors from outside the province are looking for is higher education for their children. So being so close to Conestoga and all the universities is a huge selling feature, and also being close to Toronto and 401. So definitely, I think we have a lot of advantages over other communities.”