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Carleton County brothers retire after decades as family doctors

Doctors Bruce and Colin Lockhart wanted to limit their hours but found they increased instead. (Jeanne Armstrong/CBC - image credit)
Doctors Bruce and Colin Lockhart wanted to limit their hours but found they increased instead. (Jeanne Armstrong/CBC - image credit)

Doctors Bruce and Colin Lockhart are the only two family doctors in the former village of Bath, now part of the amalgamated district of Carleton North.

Now they are retiring.

The brothers are three years apart but decided it would be best to retire together. Bruce is 70 and Colin 67.

"We've worked in the same clinic for decades, and realistically for one of us to retire and one of us not to, the workload would have been overwhelming for the remaining physician," said Colin.

Together, the Lockharts served about 2,000 patients from surrounding communities.

But it was time to go, Bruce said. Despite the need they felt to limit their work hours, the amount of work increased, he said.

He and Colin loved the work they did, Bruce said, and their patients were "very special people."

Colin said that their own health challenges also made it difficult to continue.

Medical lineage

Bruce and Colin's experience in the medical field goes back years and years, but the two also come from a family of doctors, going back to their grandfather, Jim Lockhart.

The doctor tradition doesn't end with the brothers. Bruce's son, Stuart Lockhart, also went into the profession.

Bruce said he's fortunate that Stuart is able to take on a lot of their patients, but he knows there are still many in the area who will be left without a family doctor.

"That kind of keeps us awake at night," said Bruce.

At the Carleton North Medical Clinic, Dr. Stuart Lockhart will take on some of his father and uncle's patients.
At the Carleton North Medical Clinic, Dr. Stuart Lockhart will take on some of his father and uncle's patients.

At the Carleton North Medical Clinic, Dr. Stuart Lockhart will take on some of the patients looked after by his father and uncle. (Julia Wright/CBC)

Colin said this is one of his biggest regrets — knowing the system doesn't have the capacity to absorb the local patients who need family doctors.

He said they've tried to plan ahead and alleviate as much stress as possible by telling their patients, who won't be taken on by Stuart, how to access care without a family doctor. He said they also tried to give some of their patients health information that they could pass on to their next provider, or a clinic or virtual doctor.

"I've always thought that physicians, all physicians, stop working," said Colin. "I don't care who you are, some day you will stop working.

"So you either do it two ways — you do it unexpectedly.… You wake up in the morning, and something happens and you just can't work any more, or you have a chance to prepare and try to make some sort of plan, which is what we're doing."

In celebration of the brothers' retirement, the Bath Lions Club is hosting a retirement dinner on Saturday evening. For those unable to attend, the District of Carleton North will host a gathering in the afternoon.