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HomeNewsNumber of residents in Huntsville without family doctor continues to climb

Number of residents in Huntsville without family doctor continues to climb

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There are around 1,700 people in Huntsville without a family doctor, according to town staff, and that number is growing.

Dr. Melanie Mar with Algonquin Family Health Team and Co-Chair for Family Practice Committee at Huntsville District Memorial Hospital spoke to Huntsville council on June 25 to try and figure out a solution to help those that are unattached as well as support struggling family physicians who are having trouble keeping up with the demand.

“This is not specific to Huntsville, but certainly we are feeling the same effects you’re seeing in the media nationwide in terms of doctor shortages, nursing shortages, all kinds of human resource shortages,” she told council. 

Mar said the wait time to find a new family doctor is around two years. “Our family doctors are maxed out and our population is increasing, we’re really struggling to look after a fairly large and increasing unattached population,” she added.

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 Mar said the increase in new residents comes as many have decided to spend more time in the area since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020.

Mar’s idea would see a year-round walk-in clinic established while physician recruitment is ramped up. Huntsville council was unanimously in favour of supporting “in principle” the temporary measure. The motion also directed the town’s Chief Administrative Officer Denise Corry to work with “appropriate healthcare partners to determine the level of contribution required from the town in order to support this initiative.”

While recruitment efforts are ongoing, Mar said it will “likely take a few years” to fill the gaps. 

“There are very limited options available for these patients,” Mar said. She added that this is a “community problem” and hopes every level gets involved as they try and think of a creative solution to this growing issue. It comes as Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare promoting its “#WhereToGetCareMuskoka” campaign which goes over what options residents have to get care in the area in order to keep the pressure off of the emergency departments at the Bracebridge and Huntsville hospitals. Mar says the lack of family doctor availability is contributing to that stress.

“If there’s anyone that can make this work, it’s her,” Coun. Brian Thompson said prior to voting in favour of offering council’s support.

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