Virtually every town and city in Canada is recruiting physicians to meet the healthcare needs of their community. In a 2019 report, Statistics Canada stated 14.5 per cent of Canadians aged 12 and older, or 4.6 million people, stated they didn’t have a regular health care provider. Rural areas in particular have found it difficult to attract enough doctors to meet its needs.
In the Municipality of Kincardine, physician recruiter and clinic manager Chrystel Murphy says a significant number of residents don’t have a family doctor for primary care and the Kincardine ER is understaffed, putting it at continual risk of daily or night time closures.
Murphy says the Municipality has 14,000 residents that are served by just 10 family physicians. These physicians, along with providing primary care, also work in the emergency room, provide hospital inpatient coverage, nursing and retirement home care, pregnancy and baby wellness programs, palliative care, memory clinics, mental health management.
“A vibrant community is dependent on reliable access to health care,” said Murphy. “The goal is for every person to have access to a family physician to support their wellbeing and for our hospital to have the necessary physicians to support hospital services and the emergency room.”
“We are currently looking to add three new family physicians to the Kincardine Family Health Organization in the Municipality of Kincardine.”
To meet the health care needs of the community, the Municipality of Kincardine formed a physician recruitment and retention committee in January 2021, composed of chair and municipal councilor Doug Kennedy, acting CAO Roxana Baumann, deputy mayor Randy Roppel, councilor Andrea Clarke, Dr. Angela Cavanagh, Dr. Gary Gurbin and Dr. Lisa Scott and Chrystel Murphy, physician recruiter. This group has been tasked with actively recruiting family physicians who are available to work a combination of clinic, hospitalist, and emergency room shifts.
The committee recruits physicians in a variety of ways. Kincardine Family Health Organization lead physician, Dr. Angela Cavanaugh, said the committee searches for potential candidates by “going to recruiting events at schools, going to conferences, advertising and word of mouth.”
When medical school graduates are serving their residency in Kincardine, the committee can connect with them to showcase the community and highlight the benefits of setting up a practice here.
Councilor Kennedy said that as a means to attract physicians, a comprehensive incentive package has been developed by the Municipality, with the goal of making their transition into the community as simple and stress free as possible.
One of the big challenges a physician will face when moving to a new community is finding appropriate housing. And at a time when the inventory of houses for sale is very limited and the cost of housing continues to rise, a contribution from the Society of United Professionals has made relocation to the Kincardine area much easier for doctors who are considering Kincardine as their future home.
In 2014, The Society of United Professionals purchased and gifted the use of two single family dwellings in Kincardine to the Municipality, at a cost of $1 per year. One residence is used to house new doctors and their families for up to one year and a second home provides temporary accommodation for doctors completing their residency and short-stay locum physicians. It provides a simple solution to the challenge of setting up a household, and allows the family to learn more about the area, enroll children in school and decide in which part of town they wish to establish roots.
“We are proud of our Bruce County communities and honoured to be able to contribute to them,” said Dave Ceksters, vice president of the Society of United Professionals’ Bruce Power Local. “The Society of United Professionals wants to help every member of our community thrive. Part of that is ensuring high-quality primary care throughout Bruce County.”
Murphy considers having the locum houses available to physicians to be an integral part of the recruiting process.
“Since 2014, approximately 150 physicians have used the homes for both short- and long-term stays,” said Murphy. “These accommodations are crucial to our physician recruitment efforts, and we wholeheartedly thank The Society of United Professionals for their substantial support and for being a major stakeholder in physician recruitment.”
Another arm of the recruitment team is the Physician Squad, which invites community members interested in assisting as area ambassadors. These representatives conduct informal tours for the physicians and their families, showcasing local attractions, facilities, activities and promoting the wonderful quality of life Kincardine has to offer.
Anyone interested in joining the Squad is invited to contact Murphy at email@example.com or by calling 519-385-5266.
More information about the recruitment program can be found at www.kincardine.ca/pr.
Tammy Schneider, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kincardine Independent