After 40 years as a family physician, Dr. Don McCulloch of Port Elgin Saugeen Shores, made the difficult decision to retire. The reason? A schasm of realism between urban standards and rural real-life practice.
According to Dr. Don, his ‘style’ of charting was not the way that the new Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system demanded records. Called up before the College of Physicians and Surgeons (CPSO), he tried to explain that his records were in keeping with those taught in medical school some 39 years prior and, after almost 40 years, he wasn’t about to change. It was then, the all-powerful CPSO asked him to voluntarily retire.
Did it matter that it would leave some 1,700 patients without a doctor? Apparently, not.
Dr. Don decided that … enough was enough after 40 years. On August 9th, 2019, 40 years to the day when he began practice, he chose retirement.
On September 8th (2019), the community showed its respect and reverence for a doctor who had given most of his life to their care. Hundreds turned out for his retirement and to say good-bye, as a family doctor but not as a member of the community.
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Patient, Sophie Caudle, said in tears that Dr. Don had been her doctor since she was a high-school student. Today, she is a teachers’ EA and grandmother.
“This is terrible,” she said. “What on earth were they thinking? Or were they?”
Among those who came out to pay their respects were former Mayor Mike Smith, current Mayor Luke Charbonneau, former police officer Doug Lein and many others.
“Don and I went to school together,” said Dr. Gord MacKay and owner of the Lakeshore Recreation Centre that hosted Dr. McCulloch’s retirement event, “We both came home to practice. I as a dentist and Don as a family physician. This is a very sad day.”
Many who attended said that it was obvious that the “big city does not understand rural Ontario”; “what are we supposed to do now for a doctor?”; “I’ve been with Dr. Don my whole life and so have my children … now what?” … and the questions kept coming.
At the ‘stroke of a pen’, 1,700 patients are now without a family physician in a rural community where the Emergency Room at the local hospital is already stretched and that will now have to meet the needs of patients who have nowhere else to turn. This, in a community, that is the fastest growing in southwestern Ontario because of the expansion of the Bruce Power Nuclear site. A community that is anticipated to grow beyond all expectations.
A community is now without a doctor who made house calls not because he had to but because he cared; a doctor who treated grandparents, parents and children of a family; a doctor whose leaving creates a gaping hole in the medical care of a rural community.
When did we lose touch between actually caring for patients and making sure electronic records maintained a standard?