A retiring surgeon in Kirkland Lake says it’s difficult to attract young doctors to northern Ontario because they don’t have a lot of support in small communities.

Dr. Jim Rumball, who's stepping down after 49 years on the job, said one of the reasons he has been working so long is because it was hard to find a replacement.

New doctors don’t want to practise family medicine in rural areas, because there are no other doctors nearby to offer support, he said.

"It’s not a good thing when you have a small town of 10,000-15,000 thousand people who want to be looked after, but don’t want to be shipped off to the big city for absolutely everything,"  the 80-year-old explained.

Northern Ontario School of Medicine to help

The Northern Ontario School of Medicine recently announced that 61 per cent of its graduates have chosen to become family doctors.

Rumball said he was encouraged more doctors trained in the north are specializing in family medicine.

"Find a level of practice which you are happy with, which you’re competent with, and you can keep up the information and knowledge to keep practising at that level," he said.

The Northern Ontario School of Medicine opened eight years ago, and has campuses in Sudbury and Thunder Bay.

More than 90 per cent of all students at the school are from northern Ontario.