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Dec. 7, 2022

A Report on Access to Health Care in Rural Canada - Dr. Ruth Wilson and Dr. James Rourke

A Report on Access to Health Care in Rural Canada - Dr. Ruth Wilson and Dr. James Rourke
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This is the second in a series of interviews about rural Canadian health care. Last episode we talked about the BC Rural Health Network, a collective of citizen-led collaborators that have organized to put pressure on the government and basically get folks to pay attention to the unique needs in rural health care, specifically in rural British Columbia.

Another part of putting pressure on the government comes from the physicians themselves. They are fully aware of the wait times, the lack of access to a family doctor and the travel times some rural and remote Canadians need to drive in order to see a specialist or maybe even get basic care.

This is not what they signed up for.

The Society of Rural Physicians of Canada along with the College of Family Physicians of Canada released the Rural Road Map: Report Card on Access to Health Care in Rural Canada in April 2021.

The implementation committee was made up of representatives from fifteen different organizations, all with the interest in driving change, including the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada, Indigenous Physicians Association of Canada and the Canadian Association for Rural and Remote Nursing.

Two representatives from that implementation committee spoke with me about why the report card was done, what the results have been and what the path forward is for rural Canadian health care.

Dr. Ruth Wilson is a practicing family physician in Yellowknife, and a Professor Emerita of family medicine at Queen’s University, where she was chair of the department. Before her twenty-nine years at Queen’s she spent twelve years in rural and remote family practice, including anesthesia and obstetrics, in Bella Coola, BC, Sioux Lookout Ontario, and Baie Verte Newfoundland.

She served as Chair of the Ontario Family Health Network. She is a past president of the College of Family Physicians of Canada. 

She co-chaired the Advancing Rural Family Medicine Collaborative Task Force from and co-chaired the Rural Road Map Implementation Committee.

In 2015, Dr. Wilson was named a member of the Order of Canada. In 2010, she was named one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women. In 2021 she was given the Rural Leadership Award by the Society of Rural Physicians of Canada.

Dr. James Rourke was an active rural family physician, including obstetrics and emergency work, in Goderich, Ontario, for 25 years with his wife and medical partner, Dr. Leslie Rourke. Their practice was one of the primary Rural Family Medicine teaching sites at Western University. Their most exciting and long-lasting success has been translating evidence for use in everyday family practice with the Rourke Baby Record (led by Dr. Leslie Rourke and Dr. Denny Leduc), a system that many Canadian doctors and other healthcare professionals use for well visits for infants and children from one week old to five years of age.

Since finishing as the Dean of Medicine at Memorial University of Newfoundland in 2016, Dr. Rourke has been able to step away from a heavy management load and refocus on several major interests. He has been chair of the Committee on Accreditation of Canadian Medical Schools and is currently Chair of the ASPIRE-to-Excellence, a program that awards exemplary medical school programs, and he provides sought-after advice on rural health, healthcare restructuring, medical education, and research.