Simcoe County hospital turns to virtual physicians to help tackle staffing shortages

Georgian Bay General Hospital (GBGH) hopes to address a staffing shortage with virtual physicians.

Over the last week, the North Simcoe hospital began a three-month pilot project with Ontario-based online physician company Rocket Doctor to help care for more patients while reducing beds used.

"GBGH is experiencing a 15 to 20 per cent staffing shortage in registered nursing staff and practical nursing staff, and nothing would make me happier than to be fully staffed," said Matthew Lawson, intern CEO and president of GBGH.

"It's certainly options like this that ease some of that burden a little bit."

During the summer months, the hospital says the area's population balloons four times its average size. Because of this, more hospital beds are needed to handle the influx of potential patients.

"We see this as one of many steps that we want to take as an organization until we can get back to being fully staffed," said Lawson.

GBGH is the first hospital to partner with Rocket Doctor.

Dr. William Cherniak, the founder of the platform, told CTV News that it would help reduce the number of beds used and give patients a more private experience.

"If you're somebody with high blood pressure, diabetes or skin rash or UTI, or need help with something that has a stigma around it accessing sexual health or reproductive health, those folks are easily managed by virtual care," said Dr. Cherniak.

According to the company, patients are covered under OHIP for the service.

The care can be accessed on Rocket Doctors website or through a QR code near the front entrance of the GBGH emergency.

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