Wilberforce pharmacist seeking doctor shortage solution
By Sue Tiffin
Dr. Khosrow Eshkour is proud of the modern medical centre space built into the back of the building he had completely gutted before opening the Wilberforce Pharmacy in 2011. But the clinic, built with support from council at that time, is clean, fully equipped and sitting largely empty and unused while area residents drive to see family doctors in Haliburton, Bancroft, Kinmount and Fenelon Falls.
So on April 9, Eshkour approached council with a temporary solution until a full-time doctor can be hired in the area: telemedicine.
His idea, as he explained to council, is to enable patients to have access to a doctor via telemedicine, using two-way videoconferencing, while a full-time nurse on-site assists with any clinical needs five days a week. Eshkour has been in touch with some interested doctors who are keen to participate in the program, attending the clinic occasionally when need be.
His ask is that council support a telemedicine program by helping to fund the telemedicine equipment, a secure system protecting confidentiality which costs about $45,000 and the cost of a full-time nurse, about $50,000 to $60,000 annually.
“I know it sounds like a lot of money, but I think it would serve the community,” he told council. “We have tried to get a doctor in every possible way, we have not succeeded so far.”
He noted that a new doctor is coming – her name is Dr. Megan Fannon, and she plans to join the Bancroft Family Health Team/North Hastings Family Health Team in the fall of 2020 – but that the telemedicine service could serve the area residents until she arrives.
“If that doctor is going to come then we can move this aside and allow the other doctor to come in, but for the meanwhile I think this is a great idea for the community,” he told council. The clinic in Eshkour’s pharmacy currently invites two dentists for monthly visits as well, a program that has been considered successful by Eshkour for about five years now.
Eshkour said a telemedicine program would eliminate residents having to drive to see a specialist, or deal with wait times in busy areas.
“In any of these towns around us within the proximity of Wilberforce, there’s a lot of patients without a doctor,” he told the Echo. “This area is underserviced, definitely, Wilberforce is underserviced, and I think having a clinic would give a great essential service, something that is really needed, to the community. There is no doubt in my mind that there is more than enough patients for a practice in Wilberforce.”
“I think it definitely would work, the need is there. Why wouldn’t it work, it’s working everywhere else,” he told the Echo. “Most [clinics] of Northern Ontario now have a telemedicine clinic in them.”
Council received the information, with Deputy Mayor Cec Ryall suggesting they find out how many people are looking for a doctor. “I’d like to consider this,” he said.
Eshkour replied that as an example, he knows of a number of patients needing to go to Bancroft and wait simply to get a prescription renewal.
“If you do have a clinic set up, and you do have a full-time nurse practitioner, I don’t think you will have a shortage of patients,” he told council.
Eshkour told the Echo that research shows having a doctor in the area could bring more than $1 million to the economy, as people finished at their appointment might shop, eat, fill their prescription and support local businesses, as many are likely doing when they are leaving town for their doctor appointments.
“Truthfully I’m involved in a number of projects but this one is close to my heart, this is something because it’s so remote, and it’s so needed, you feel different about it, you have that burning desire to get it to work,” he said. “It’s easy to set up a clinic in Toronto and find doctors, everyone wants to be near Toronto, but it’s hard to open a clinic in a remote area and find a doctor. The challenges are huge for this area ... and you develop a good relationship with your patients ... It would make me very, very happy.”