Gifford advocating for more training spots for doctors in Lambton

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Marilyn Gifford, seen here with Sarnia-Lambton MPP Bob Bailey, hopes to get the provincial government to open three new residency spaces for physicians trained outside of Canada

Blake Ellis/Local Journalism Initiative

A local woman has been promised a meeting with Ontario Health Minister Sylvia Jones.
And when she sits down with her, Marilyn Gifford will be pushing for Sarnia-Lambton to be part of a new physician residency program.
Gifford is proposing a pilot project for Sarnia-Lambton to host at least three physician residency programs for Canadian or permanent resident students who had to go out of the country to receive their medical education.
These students are going to the Caribbean, Ireland, Australia and the United Kingdom to get their education because of limited spaces in Canadian universities. To continue their education and become physicans in Canada, they need a two-year residency.
But Gifford says students with an international education often have a difficult time accessing those residencies. That as the province faces a shortage of doctors.
It is estimated by 2025, one million Ontarians will be without a family doctor.
In Sarnia-Lambton, there are 18 doctors who are nearing their retirement.
Alerted to the number of people who do not have a family doctor in Sarnia-Lambton and the pending retirement of some of the existing physicians by her family doctor in October 2022, Gifford decided to do something. She believes there are no shortage of doctors, but simply a residency shortage.
Gifford said there are 1,800 qualified Canadian medical students who have been trained outside of Canada and less than 400 of these are offered residency programs. She believes many of these future doctors are going to the United States to receive their residencies and are being licensed and staying in that country.
“We have an abundance of fully qualified Canadian and permanent resident medical graduates whose education is already paid for,” Gifford writes in a petition she started on Change.Org.
“They are here in Sarnia-Lambton, ready to begin placements but are blocked by red tape and government barriers. We have qualified medical graduates working minimum wage jobs as they wait. Our local crisis has a simple solution – we need to open more residency programs for those qualified. We need the doctors, they need the placements.”
Gifford has been visiting municipal councils for over a year looking for support for her cause. And as she has, the Ontario government started to address the issue.
The 2023 Ontario budget has $4.3 million set aside for 50 physician students who have received their medical education elsewhere, return to Ontario to obtain a two year residency and their license to practise in the province.
Gifford is proposing Sarnia-Lambton be allotted three of those spots. These three residency programs over five years will allow for 15 doctors to be licensed, Gifford predicts.
Gifford started a petition with the hopes of getting 1,000 signatures. That petition now has 3,202 signatures and counting.
Gifford has given that petition to Sarnia-Lambton MPP Bob Bailey and he will be presenting it in the Ontario Legislature at Queen’s Park.
Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley and Petrolia Mayor Brad Loosely have also lent their support to the effort and Lambton County Council endorsed her efforts when she appeared before them in June.
Former Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott gave Gifford encouraging words when the pair met at a women’s leadership conference in September.
Gifford has been promised a meeting with the Health Minister to discuss piloting a program in Lambton, but a date has not yet be set. Gifford is anxiously waiting for her meeting with Jones, to see if her proposed pilot project gets off the ground.

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