mi-ott-fullerton-300

Dr. Merrilee Fullerton says she does not think the province is being truthful about program statistics. (Laurie Fagan/CBC)

A patient and family doctor in Ottawa are calling out a provincial program that aims to help people find a family doctor or nurse practitioner.

The Health Care Connect program is a $44-million investment by the Ontario government. Officials say, since 2009, the program has matched almost 60 per cent of residents who used it, from Ottawa and the surrounding area, with a new doctor.

But physician Merrilee Fullerton said she does not believe those statistics. She said in 2010, only 21 per cent of patients in the Ottawa area were referred to a new family doctor.

Fullerton is not convinced the numbers have tripled because, as she told the CBC's Laurie Fagan, Ottawa still has a shortage of family doctors.

"The money spent on Health Care Connect is not well spent. [It is] more of an optics endeavour," Fullerton said.

"I just see it as another attempt to plug a hole when the problem is so much bigger than that."

Doctor found on her own

Christine Jackson was forced to find a new doctor after 35 years with her family physician when he gave only three months' notice he was retiring.

She registered with the provincial program. But in the process, Jackson said she had to cold-call doctors with little help from the program.

si-ott-jackson-220

Christine Jackson spent four months looking for a doctor after her physician of 35 years retired. (Laurie Fagan/CBC)

"There doesn't seem to be a source where one can go to find a listing of family practices with contact numbers or email addresses," she said. "I'm disappointed."

She searched for four months before finding a doctor on her own, adding Health Care Connect has not called her since.

Program officials insist the program remains effective for almost two-thirds of people who use it.