Napanee’s three incoming doctors may come from varied distances and backgrounds, but they’ve found common bonds in their shared passion for family medicine and an acquired love of this community.
Between meetings Tuesday to investigate possible locations for their clinical practice in Napanee and in Deseronto, Dr. Heather Khey Beldman, Dr. Andrei Garcia Popov, and Dr. Nathaniel Hart took time to introduce themselves to the Beaver and share their vision for their practice.
The three physicians were recruited to practice in the area through a partnership between Hastings County and Greater Napanee that provides $20,000 a year for each doctor to allow them to recoup schooling costs over a five-year period.
When the strategy was initially announced it was noted the doctors could take on 500 patients in their first year of practice and increase to 900 by the end of their second year.
Schermerhorn indicated all three physicians will set up a primary care practice in town and serve various roles at LACGH. He said the signing is proof the partnership is working as intended.
“Both of our municipalities are benefitting under this agreement and our residents will be better served as a result,” Schermerhorn noted, while also acknowledging the efforts of LACGH chief of staff Dr. Kim Morrison in the ongoing recruitment efforts.
“Dr. Morrison was instrumental in bringing these highly recommended physicians to the attention of our communities,” he said.
Earlier this month, Morrison told the Beaver she was working on a recruitment effort that would specifically address the under-serviced communities of Deseronto and Tyendinaga Township, but was hesitant to announce a deal until it was finalized.
Hastings County chief administrative officer Jim Pine called Thursday an “incredibly important day and a happy day” for his council as they signed not only the three doctors, but also one for the Bancroft area. After Hastings officials been working for years to bring medical help to the southeastern part of the county, he said it only made sense to partner with Greater Napanee.
While the doctors had been at LACGH previously to do rotations, Pine indicated Hastings was just made aware of the possibility of them committing to practice about three weeks ago.
“We really owe a big debt of gratitude to Dr. Kim Morrison in Napanee who made the initial contact with these three physicians to join our recruitment program. Once Dr. Morrison contacted us, our John Nicholas and Greater Napanee’s Charlie McDonald jumped into it and ran from there meeting the doctors directly, explaining our recruitment program and ultimately signing them. It was a really good team effort. Dr. Morrison deserves credit for A. being aware of our program and B. bringing candidates to our attention that were fortunately a great fit.”
Nicholas said the County continues to seek more doctors to set up primary care practices in the area. Just after Thursday’s announcement he was headed to McMaster University in Hamilton for a recruitment event for rural doctors. Pine added the benefit to the communities goes far beyond just medical services.
“For every family doctor that comes and sets up a practice, it’s a huge economic developer bringing the equivalent of $1 million a year (of economic value) to the community,” he said. “People get improved health care and they also give a shot in the arm to the local economy.”
He said the presence of family doctors also attracts businesses and residents to the area.
“It’s all related.”
Deseronto Mayor Norm Clark, a member of Hastings County council and the LACGH board was ecstatic with the news.
“Everything is falling into place,” he said. “It’s been a long time, but it’s a dream come true that we’re going to get doctors. Thanks to the hospital board and John at the County, both parties have been working on this for a long time.”
Clark said he’s heard about the problem for some time with several people in the town of 2,000 expressing concern they don’t have a doctor. Many have approached physicians who aren’t taking patients on. He also said Dr. Robert Reynolds, who has served residents for several years is hoping to retire.
He is hopeful recruitment efforts will continue.
“We won’t be stopping. We’ll be carrying on and seeing if we can get as many as we can. We’re getting into a seniors population. People are needing doctors more every day. It’s not something that’s going to end, but this is going to make a tremendous difference as far as the medical situation in town and the surrounding area.”
According to Clark, Deseronto council is also looking at trying to get a medical centre built in the town.
The doctors told the Beaver the financial incentive helped them decide to locate in Napanee.
“Not everybody is the same, so I can’t speak for everyone, but for me and my background I do have a huge debt and that’s what the program supports me doing. You’re already facing this daunting task of starting a new practice but you also have to realize the financial and business side realities of starting a new practice too,” said Khey Beldman. It really is very helpful and we’re very fortunate to have that program available while addressing our practice goals where we want to help people in a rural community.”
Added Hart: “We’re very fortunate we were able to get that assistance. There are expenses in opening a clinic itself. It’s going to help not having all that burden on our shoulders.”