Small town, big moves: Nackawic attracts new doctor to St. John River community

·3 min read
Nackawic, home to the world's largest axe symbolizing its ties to the forestry industry, is celebrating the success of its effort to recruit a new doctor to the community. (Jeanne Armstrong/CBC - image credit)
Nackawic, home to the world's largest axe symbolizing its ties to the forestry industry, is celebrating the success of its effort to recruit a new doctor to the community. (Jeanne Armstrong/CBC - image credit)

As communities across the province are struggling to attract and retain doctors, one small New Brunswick town is punching above its weight in its effort to land a new physician.

Nackawic, home of the World's Largest Axe, with a population of 941, according to the town's website, announced the arrival of a new doctor for the community's health centre.

Dr. Tristan Pickens will work alongside the town's other doctor, Dr. Melanie Jones, and nurse practitioner Michelle Daniels.

Greg MacFarlane, the town's deputy mayor, said securing the new physician was made possible because the community, the local economic development corporation, the province and the Chalmers Foundation worked together.

Although fewer than 1,000 people live within its borders, Nackawic says it has an "economic influence" over about 8,000 people nearby.

Jeanne Armstrong/CBC
Jeanne Armstrong/CBC

MacFarlane said the provincial recruiting system had the new doctor in the pipeline, but it was up to Nackawic to show him why he should settle there. Part of that effort involved finding a space for the doctor's practice, he said.

"As the process moved along, we began to realize that the health centre itself would need to be modified or expanded."

Gilles Allain, the executive director of the non-profit Chalmers Foundation, said renovating the community health centre was one of five projects that were under consideration.

He said the other four had to do with purchasing equipment, the kind of proposal the foundation sees most, but it was attracted to the community nature of the Nackawic project.

"It is great to buy medical equipment, but what if we look at the community level? Wouldn't we have more impact if we supported community initiatives," said Allain.

A lot of the renovations at the health centre revolve around making more space for reception areas and examination rooms.

Google Maps
Google Maps

Allain said a lot of the money for the renovations was raised by community members and larger employers in the area.

He said the foundation hasn't seen many projects like the one in Nackawic, but he expects that will change.

"I suspect the phone could be ringing," said Allain.

"What we want to do is engage in conversations with Horizon Health Network and say, 'You know, in the smaller communities like Minto, Chipman, Boiestown, McAdam, Harvey, Florenceville-Bristol, the smaller centres, are there similar opportunities?'" Allain said.

Community effort

MacFarlane said people in the community worked hard to show what Nackawic has to offer.

"I'd like to think that we have a lot to offer in in this region. We have a great work life balance. We have good schools, lots of recreational activities."

Another strategy was to engage with the doctor and show a willingness to make things work for him.

"Then really sort of ticking the boxes in terms of, what did the doctor need to come here and not saying, we can't do that," said MacFarlane, saying instead, "We are going to do that to make sure you're happy and make sure you come here."

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