Free sick notes don't pay off for Windsor doctors

Physicians who gained notoriety in Windsor for handing out free sick notes as a promotional tool say the tactic may not have worked as they are still struggling to find patients.

Roseville Garden Family Practice still struggling to fill patient roster

Dr. Chintan Shah of the Roseville Garden Family Practice says they just don't have enough patients in Windsor-Essex, which currently has at least 20 family doctors accepting new clients. (Rob Heydari/CBC)

The physicians who gained notoriety in Windsor for handing out free sick notes as a promotional tool say the tactic may not have worked.

Five months after two doctors at the Roseville Garden Family Practice offered the free paperwork to lure new patients, they continue to struggle and fill their patient roster. 

Dr. Chintan Shah says he's been forced to cut office hours due to a lack of demand.

"If the patient turnout is a result of that [advertising], I wouldn't say it's worked well," Shah told CBC News, saying their promotional tactics worked for a few weeks.

He estimated — between two doctors — his practice is only serving about 350 patients after five months. They were hoping for a patient roster in excess of 1,000 patients at this point.

Dr. Chintan Shah says his practice has struggled to find patients in Windsor. (Rob Heydari/CBC)

"Unfortunately we just don't feel like we're needed here," said Shah. He says he doesn't feel the demand for family physicians in Windsor-Essex is as high as he expected after being recruited to come to the region in 2016.

Physician recruiters in the region agree there is no shortage of general practitioners, but they say this does not mean new doctors aren't needed.

"Twenty per cent of our family physicians, who are practicing today in Windsor-Essex, are already over the age of 65," said Joan Mavrinac, physician recruiter with the County of Essex.

Mavrinac pointed out "if those doctors retire over the next five years, it will orphan about 75,000 patients," which reinforces the need to continually replenish the pool of talent in the area.

According to the provincial Ministry of Health, only certain postal codes in West Windsor are in high need of new physicians. The Essex County Medical Society lists at least 20 family doctors accepting new patients in the region.