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Western's Med School Tackles Doctor Shortage

Monday, October 1, 2001 - 00:00

The University of Western Ontario is set to help relieve the province's critical doctor shortage with a new clinical education network for Southwestern Ontario (SWO).

Health and Long-Term Care Minister Tony Clement announced today the establishment of two rural and regional training networks for physicians in Southwest and central Ontario. Western will take a lead role in coordinating the Southwestern Ontario Regional and Rural Training Network which will provide medical training across the area in rural and regional communities. A vital component of this network will be a new clinical education campus in Windsor.

The Minister also announced a $1 million investment to support the two clinical networks this year. Once the program is fully operating, Western will receive $4 million annually in provincial support.

"The reality is that Southwestern Ontario is an 'under-doctored' region and we hope that by decentralizing medical training we can increase the number of doctors who will choose to practice in the area," says Dr. Carol Herbert, Dean of Western's Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry. "We are certainly grateful to the province for helping advance Western's capacity to train physicians who are competent and confident in their ability to practice medicine in both rural and urban settings."

Twenty additional post-graduate/residency positions will be provided at Western in under-supplied specialties and advanced family medicine. There are currently 378 residents in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry at Western. It is anticipated that the first residents will enter the network program in July of 2002 with the intention to develop a full clinical clerkship for third-year medical students in Windsor by 2004.

"Our collaborative team has developed a unique and innovative model designed to address the severe doctor shortage in this area," says University of Windsor President Ross Paul. "The secret to our success has been the phenomenal spirit of cooperation among all participants in Windsor and the Counties and at Western. Building on existing infrastructures, our model can serve as a prototype for similar developments in other parts of Canada."

The Southwestern Ontario Regional and Rural Training Network will build on existing partnerships between London, the Thames Valley district and the communities of Grey-Bruce and Huron-Perth as well as between Windsor and the Essex, Kent and Lambton counties.

"As a hospital system, we pledge to honor our commitment to teamwork and excellence, as we collaborate together to develop an outstanding learning environment for the practitioners of the future," says Bonnie Adamson, President and CEO of the Huron Perth Hospitals Partnership.

Paul Huras, Executive Director of the Thames Valley District Health Council and spokesperson for three SWO District Hospital Councils, says the Councils have recognized health human resources shortages as one of the most threatening problems facing the SWO system. "We will continue to work with Western to find ways of addressing the shortages of doctors in our region."

The announcement follows provincial statements showing SWO is under-doctored by 350 physicians. According to a recent report by the Expert Panel of Health Professional Human Resources, increasing the number of residency positions will help reduce the shortfall in physicians. This is the third in a series of announcements on initiatives by the province to increase the number of physicians in Ontario this year, including the increase to medical school enrolment by 30 per cent in May.

"The overall goal is to educate physicians who are prepared to serve Canadians effectively, whether they're in an urban, regional or rural setting," says Dr. Herbert. "We know that where you train people relates to where they tend to practice, so we believe the distribution of physicians will improve by expanding educational experiences."

"Western's unique physical and social geography positions us to develop a medical education model that bridges the gaps between rural, regional and urban medicine. It is our hope that this model will be applied to resolve the problem of health care professional shortages, both nationally and internationally."

For more information, please contact:

Dr. Carol Herbert Dean, Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry
The University of Western Ontario
(519) 661-3459

Carmen Kinniburgh Communications & Public Affairs
The University of Western Ontario
(519) 661-2111, ext. 85165

Dr. Ross H. Paul
President University of Windsor
(519) 253-3000, ext. 2000

John Carrington Manager, News Services
University of Windsor
(519) 253-3000, ext. 3241

Communications and Public Affairs
The University of Western Ontario London,
Ontario CANADA N6A 5B8
Direct: (519) 661-2111 ext. 85165
Fax: (519) 661-3921
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