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Physiotherapists are in short supply in northern communities.

The shortage of health-care professionals in some Northern Ontario communities is especially acute in specialized fields such as physiotherapy.

The shortage is being felt the most in the northern reaches of the region where the health-care professional is flown into the community once or twice per month, according to Hugh Drouin, health coordinator for the Ministry of Health's Northern Health Office in Thunder Bay.

However, even road-accessed communities such as Red Lake are having trouble attracting specialists. Red Lake has one part-time physiotherapist, but two full-time ones are required.

"Within the hospital we could employ two full-time physiotherapists. That's what we budgeted for if we could attract them to the community," says Hal Fjeldsted, the administrator of the Red Lake Margaret Cochenour Memorial Hospital.

Fjeldsted says the additional physiotherapist would allow the hospital to offer outreach programs in such communities as Ear Falls.

While there is no shortage in Sudbury, James Busch, co-owner of the Sudbury Orthopedic and Sports Physiotherapy Clinic, confirms that it is difficult to attract physiotherapists to Northern Ontario.

"Part of it is the climate, and some of it is ignorance of the north and what the north has to offer," he explains.

However, Busch agrees with many other health-care officials that the main reason for the shortage concerns education. Enrolment is limited at the five Ontario universities which offer degree programs in physiotherapy.

Fjeldsted believes that expanding the programs would make it easier to recruit physiotherapists, but he points out that there are no guarantees that the graduates would come to Northern Ontario.

In its efforts to attract physiotherapists and other medical professionals, Red Lake has approached graduates from universities as far away as the Maritimes. It also relies heavily on word of mouth to find potential candidates.

"If we hear that someone's sister-in-law's second cousin is a physiotherapist who might not be working, we'll go talk to him," Fjeldsted says.

Busch says he has recruited physiotherapists from as far away as Britain. He operates three private physiotherapy clinics in Sudbury which employ a total of eight health-care professionals.

In Kenora, meanwhile, there appears to be an ample supply of physiotherapists. Debra Dent, co-owner of the Kenora Physiotherapy and Sports Injury Clinic, says her practice employs four physiotherapists and that the Lake of the Woods District Hospital employs an additional four.

Dent says Kenora's proximity to Winnipeg and Thunder Bay has helped her recruit professionals.

However, she points out that the clinic must offer salaries and educational opportunities which are comparable to those of hospital-based clinics and other private practices in the province.

"We have to be competitive," Dent explains.
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Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Krejlgaard, Chris
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Dec 1, 1991
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