Two local doctors hope to head off a looming shortage of family physicians in Sarnia by building a family medical centre designed specifically to attract new practitioners.
Dr. Sean Peterson and Dr. John O’Mahony plan to expand the existing medical clinic at 481 London Rd. by adding 8,600 square feet of floor space while adopting a new model for the delivering primary care.
To make way for the expansion and additional parking required, they have purchased two properties immediately to the east of the clinic on London Road.
“Selling Sarnia to potential physician recruits is not the real challenge we are facing. Cost of living, the beaches, lake, river, parks etc. are attractive selling points to recruits, said Dr. O’Mahony, one of the medical centre’s owners and an adjunct professor of family medicine at Western University.
“Where we are struggling is the selling of the current family practice model we have in Sarnia.”
Three family doctors intend to retire next year and another 10 over the next five years, leaving a potential 25,000 people without a family doctor, according to the Physician Recruitment Taskforce.
But new doctors are reluctant to move to Sarnia to take over the solo practices of “old school” docs with huge rosters of patients and paper record-keeping. Instead, they want to work as part of a team surrounded by trained professionals with access to labs and X-rays and the ease of electronic patient records, O’Mahony said.
“There is a big emphasis on lifestyle balance in medical schools these days.”
The proposed Family Medical Centre cleared one hurdle last week when city council approved an Official Plan amendment that will allow homes at 499 and 503 London Rd. to be demolished for additional parking.
The project also has the support of the Rapids Family Health Team, MPP Bob Bailey and the Physician Recruitment Taskforce.
In fact, Taskforce co-ordinator Carly Nienhuis said she breathed a sigh of relief when O’Mahony and Peterson approached her with their plan for a modern group-practice facility.
“This is exactly what Sarnia-Lambton needs,” she said. “I am confident this model will attract family physicians to Sarnia-Lambton.
Once approvals are in place construction is expected to take about 14 months.