People who live in Glenboro, Man., had to raise enough money to cover the cost of a two-bedroom apartment for visiting medical staff in hopes of attracting more doctors to their rural community.
Tracy Rimmer is with the Glenboro Health Action Committee, a volunteer group that has been lobbying for more resident doctors in rural communities.
"Up until three years ago, we had three doctors, we are now down to one," she said. The community has one nurse practitioner. It now relies on doctors from outside the community to cover weekend shifts.
"Currently we're making due with locums," she said. That's the term hospitals use for a doctor who fills in on a casual, temporary basis to cover off shifts.
But the health centre, built in the early 1950s, includes a clinic, a personal care home and a hospital with 11 acute care beds — all under one roof.
"One doctor and one nurse practitioner is not enough," Rimmer said.
624 people live in the village, hundreds more just outside. It's 80 km southeast of Brandon, Man.
Rimmer said the group recently called a town hall to come up with ideas on how to attract more visiting doctors.
She said a lack of temporary housing was a big problem, and resulted in doctors staying in other people's homes.
"We were having problems finding private accommodations for them," she said. "Because calling a locum [doctor] in and saying you're going to stay with Mrs. Smith for the week, well that may be all well and good but they may not be comfortable staying in Mrs. Smith's spare bedroom," she said.
Rimmer says health authorities only cover part of the housing costs for temporary doctors.
Rimmer said with the help of the community, they have raised enough to cover the $800/month rent on a two-bedroom apartment for one year.
The apartment is fully furnished, and has been used by visiting medical staff since March.
Rimmer said communities and health authorities need to work together to keep doctors happy in rural communities.
"Many of the doctors who are brought in overseas who are all incredibly qualified don't find the cultural support they need and hoping for in rural areas," she said.
"Of course they're going to want to have a mosque or a synagogue or whatever their cultural heritage dictates, they want that community around them."
"We have a responsibility to offer things to compete, because honestly that's what it's about these says, there are not enough doctors to go around," she said.
More to do
Rimer said the next goal is to raise enough money to recruit a more permanent doctor.
She said said meetings have already been held between the Glenboro Health Action Committee and a recruitment officer with the Prairie Mountain Health Region.
"It's going to cost us $100,000 minimum to get a doctor here through a recruiter, that is our next goal."
Rimmer also said the recent provincial cuts to emergency rooms in Winnipeg has her wondering what's in store for health care in rural areas.
"Of course we're concerned," she said. "At this point, we're hoping that the very visible effort that we're expending here will keep us off the list until at least until the next round."
"We're willing to work and do our part, and maybe that will keep us off the chopping block."