An apple a day…

By Vivian Collings

I went for a motorcycle ride with my dad on Father’s Day.
We drove through the Highlands, enjoying the hazy skies, a rocky landscape, and bright green trees, attempting to disconnect from reality for a while.
It’s hard to do, though, when signs highlighting the gaps in local and national health care are on nearly every front lawn.
It’s a crisis we can’t afford to ignore.
I started thinking about “physicians wanted” signs and billboards lining county roads.
Doctors’ offices have waitlists filled with endless names to be assigned to a family practitioner.
Those with a family doctor are lucky to get an appointment within a month.
One out of seven Ontarians don’t have a family doctor. It’s likely more than that in Haliburton County.
Despite tireless recruitment efforts, where are all the doctors?
Who’s eating all the apples in the county?
In all seriousness, the main reasons why we can’t get long-term family doctors in the area aren’t a secret. We’re stuck in the same endless loop that we’ve been in for years.
Without more housing options and improved health care, we can’t attract new doctors. Without more doctors, we can’t improve local health care.
I’ve been wondering about all the doctors that own cottages in the area. Why don’t they want to do what so many others have done and move to the lake permanently? They’d be guaranteed a job – likely forever.
But then I remembered what chief physician of HHHS Dr. Norm Bottum said in a press conference once.
He said Haliburton County likely isn’t an appealing place for new doctors.
We have older equipment and less medical staff.
Why would new doctors want to practice in rural Ontario when they could practice with better technology and have less of a chance of burnout surrounded by more staff at a bigger facility?
I’m one of the lucky ones to have a local family doctor and access to the medical centre’s resources.
But what happens when our doctors retire with no replacements in sight?
Some people in the county have no choice but to use emerg as their primary form of health care.
With no walk-in clinic and no availibility at any of our local family medical centres, emerg is the only option, even if an ailment isn’t “serious” enough to be treated in the ER.
If someone has a recurring condition and has to continue to use emerg, they’re seeing a different doctor each time. A doctor that is busy treating potentially life-threatening conditions. A doctor that has never seen your medical record before that moment.
It goes without saying that the closure of the Minden ER will worsen the situation.
We’re riding the same wave as many other small towns in Canada.
Minden made national news when its emergency room closed because it may have been one of the first, but very likely won’t be the last to do so.
Attracting and retaining medical staff in a rural place is a national problem.
So I guess, if the saying’s true, keep eating your apples. We’ll need to keep our health up, because we don’t have many doctors left.