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Funding for new study could bring solutions for doctor shortage in Kingston

Finding a family physician in Kingston can take years, with thousands of patients currently sitting on a waiting list.

Kingston city council is trying to come up with a solution to fix the doctor shortage that has left thousands without a family physician.

Dr. Joy Hataley, who has been a family physician in Kingston for the last 20 years, says finding a physician has become a growing problem not only in Kingston but across Ontario.

“The number one call to the mayor’s office is, how do I get a family doctor?”

READ MORE: Critical Needs, Part 1: Kingston’s family doctor shortage

Despite an increasing number in orphaned patients, Kingston currently isn’t designated as a community with a high need for family physicians.

“For Kingston and surrounding area, the estimate is that we have anywhere between 12- and 15,000 people who do not have a family doctor,” Hataley says.

Coun. Robert Kiley says one of the reasons is that Kingston has a high ratio of doctors, but not family physicians.

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Doctors conducting research and running the medical school at Queen’s University, physicians working in correctional facilities as well as those offering specialized care at Kingston Health Sciences Centre are all counted in the total amount of physicians in Kingston — therefore, making it appear as though the city is flush with doctors.

Unfortunately, for many Kingstonians that appears to be far from reality.

“We know that we have doctors working at the hospital who are dealing with patients only in that context, and thousands of people that are without a family doctor, which is a big problem,” says Kiley.

Tuesday evening, city council is set to vote on whether to spend $50,000 toward a study which will provide answers for the current family physician shortage. The results of the “doctor supply” study will be sent to the province in a bid to have Kingston declared an under-served area.

Dr. Hataley says for some, not having a family doctor means being cut off from the health-care system when they need it most.

“Many of us don’t have a family doctor and that is a stumbling block to accessing all types of care, not only the primary care that the family doctor provides,” says Hataley.

READ MORE: No end in sight to B.C.’s doctor shortage as major online resource disappears