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LETTER: Ramara 'short-sighted' to deny funding for doctor recruitment efforts

Township needs to pull its own weight rather than 'compromise' the pursuit of well-planned development, says Concerned Citizens of Ramara
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OrilliaMatters received the following letters from two residents, on behalf of the Concerned Citizens of Ramara Township, regarding the township's decision to deny funding to the Orillia and Area Physician Recruitment and Retention Committee.
The decision on the part of Ramara Township council on Monday, March 11, 2019 not to reinstate the $8,000 per year funding to the Orillia and Area Physician Recruitment and Retention Committee (OAPRRC) is disturbingly short sighted.

This decision on the part of Ramara Township council does not represent a well thought-out approach to local health care.

Each of the Ramara Township council members must recognize that they are responsible for the overall health and wellbeing of Ramara Township residents, which includes working to achieve equal access to local health care.

The $8,000 per year is a figure that was originally arrived at based on past Ramara Township’s share of funding, which was directed at supporting physician recruitment for the entire area, with Orillia as the hub. Implying that the $8,000 per year was specifically intended to only support attracting a doctor to the medical centre in Brechin is a misrepresentation of the facts.

The $8,000 per year contribution from Ramara Township in this joint community venture is equivalent to approximately a dollar per Ramara Township taxpayer.

That money has been well spent. In the past 10 years, 1,760 residents of Ramara have been connected to a family doctor recruited by the OAPRRC, said Pat Thor, the Community Physician Recruitment Liaison.

Today’s physicians tend to work as medical groups for several reasons, thus the very few graduating physicians each year that are willing to come to Orillia and area are more inclined to want to share a building and common resources.

These physicians, however, are for the most part located in Orillia. With the combined financial support from Oro-Medonte, Severn, Orillia, Rama and whatever Ramara can come up with, we stand a better chance of locating and attracting quality healthcare into our area. 

We have all heard the phrase “pull your own weight”, which is from our farming history where beasts of burden (horses, oxen) were yoked together and the entire team was responsible for doing its share. Obviously, it was possible to hang back and let others do the lion's share of the work. 

Healthcare is a must for all communities and Ramara Township needs to pull our own weight, just as the other communities in the area have committed to doing.

As Pat Thor has mentioned, “Any time we recruit a new doctor to our area the residents of Ramara benefit from that.”

If the current council’s primary purpose is to focus on eliminating the waste of ratepayers' money and they believe accessibility to health care is an area that needs to be eliminated, then a re-evaluation of Ramara Township’s fiscal priorities and responsibilities is needed.

Healthcare isn’t an area of civic responsibility that can be adequately or properly managed unless it is recognized as a long-term and ongoing commitment.

Supporting ongoing fiscal support of the OAPRRC and pulling our own weight as a municipality who continues to benefit from the program can not in any way be argued as fiscally irresponsible when it is only costing us a dollar per registered taxpayer in Ramara Township.

Standing up during the next municipal election at all candidate’s meetings on a platform of having improved Ramara Township’s finances at the expense of programs like the OAPRRC won’t impress taxpayers.

Opting out of support for programs like doctor recruitment and other community-based programs simply diminishes the health-care opportunities for all citizens who would jointly benefit and undermines the viability of our communities.

Not participating in collaborative health-care initiatives clearly compromises the pursuit of well-planned development for any community, including Ramara Township. 

Doing nothing to address the shortage of rural physicians is pretty much guaranteed to produce exactly nothing. The Northern and Rural Recruitment and Retention Initiative offers taxable financial incentives to each eligible physician who establishes a full-time practice in an eligible community of the province.

The Concerned Citizens of Ramara will be looking into some possible methods of raising at least some of Ramara Township's $8,000 commitment to the OAPRRC.

Yes, there will be people who will laugh up their sleeves at the idea that we would take the time and effort to raise money to support physician recruitment and retention in our area, while replicating a function of our municipality and council.

This would however be a counterproductive attitude that doesn’t address the very real need to pull our own weight as a municipality in the case of our shared responsibility to fund physician recruitment and retention on an ongoing basis.

At the end of the day all that really should matter is shared participation in the OAPRRC for the benefit of everyone in the area.

Currently a Gofundme page has been created to raise as much as we can. We are asking for many small donations and we are trying to reach as many people as possible.

The GoFundMe platform is reasonably cost effective, with no annual fee. The standard transaction fee of 2.9% plus $0.30 per donation allows for credit card processing and safe transfer of funds. On a $10 donation that amounts to 59 cents for every $10 raised.

The contributions will be directly transferred to the OAPRRC.

Mike Douglas and Anna Bourgeois
On behalf of Concerned Citizens of Ramara