Physician recruitment is going to be done on a region-wide basis now, thanks to a new hub model for attracting doctors. Flickr file photo

New ‘hub’ model takes regional approach to doctor recruitment in West Kootenay

Kootenay-Boundary a provincial leader in effectively attracting doctors to work here

Doctors and health officials in the Kootenay-Boundary are joining forces to attract new physicians to the region.

Last week senior medical leadership from the Kootenay-Boundary agreed to a regional recruitment strategy to attract specialists for local hospitals, and general practitioners for outside the hospitals.

“It is a joint effort by the local physicians organization, which includes the entire Kootenay-Boundary, Kootenay Lake Hospital and Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital,” says Sylvain Turgeon, a physician recruiter with the Kootenay-Boundary Divisions of Family Practice, a professional group representing Kootenay area doctors. “All three organizations together have joined efforts to amplify recruitment efforts across the board.”

The new model for recruitment is unique to the Kootenay-Boundary, he says. Other regions like Kamloops are also looking at adopting the model.

“It’s a recruitment hub for Kootenay-Boundary,” Turgeon says. “Instead of recruiting physicians in silos — each community for each community — we’re going to have a regional effort, likely with more means, wider audience, more capacity building and so forth to benefit all.”

Provincial leader

The West Kootenay has become a provincial leader in finding and attracting new doctors to the region.

“We’re considered leaders in the province in terms of what we are doing,” says Dr. David Merry, a semi-retired doctor who has practiced in Grand Forks for three decades. “Our family physician community has decided to designate significant resources to recruitment. We see it as very important to our community here.”

He notes the region has had a dedicated recruitment officer for several years now.

“That’s really helpful,” he says. “In the past doctors recruited mostly through word-of-mouth and by advertising in magazines. But doctors are doctors, they’re not professionals in that kind of work, so it’s nice to have someone who’s trained in that kind of work to assist us.”

Merry sits on local, regional, and provincial committees involved in doctor recruitment. He says as Boomer doctors like himself age, they struggle to find an exit to retire without leaving their communities in the lurch.

“I know one physician in the region who held his retirement off because he didn’t want to leave his practice without a physician,” he says. “But it took him four years to replace himself.”

Merry, who sits on several regional and provincial recruitment committees, says the West Kootenay has worked hard to keep the shortage at bay.

“Since 2017, 16 positions have left the communities for various reasons. Three are still practicing as locums. But in that same time we have recruited 24 positions.

“So we have been very effective in recruiting.”

Right now, there are eight postings for doctors for the Kootenay — including four for Nelson and two for Trail.

No easy formula

Nakusp is one of those communities looking for a doctor. From a full complement of six doctors, they’ve lost two, and another may be leaving soon.

A recruitment committee has beens truck to work on attracting new doctors

SEE: Nakusp to use New Denver playbook to attract new doctors to town

There’s no magic formula for doctor recruitment. It takes wide-ranging advertising and building connections, developing temporary doctor positions (locums) to familiarize doctors to the area, and rolling out the red carpet for visiting physicians you’re trying to get to commit to your town.

“If a lead generated by any of those streams, we take great care to make sure this prospective physician candidate has a favourable experience,” says Turgeon. “So we arrange site visits, fly them in, or line them up an opportunity to work in the community as a locum before deciding.“

Turgeon says having the community on board and working to attract the doctor is very helpful.

“What it does is it turns a rather stale, online ad into something more alive,” he says. “If the community throws its love behind the prospective candidate, it’s a different story.”

Turgeon says doctors today are looking for opportunity to do more than just basic patient care.

“Family physicians are doing more than just straight clinic practice,” he says. “They are providing coverage in emergency, but some also have specialties.

“Some will do oncology, some will do anaesthesia, some will do chronic pain management, and so forth,” he says. “And that builds a lot of resiliency in a rural area like ours, to be able to provide those services and patients not having to go to Kelowna or elsewhere.”

Prospective doctors are also looking for more work-life balance, meaning there can be the need for more doctors in a community to share the burden. And it’s also important for the doctor’s spouse to see a place for him or herself in the community too.

“Most younger physicians are interested in having a schedule that allows for a reasonable work-life balance,” he says. “They are going from 80-hour weeks to 50-hour weeks, which is arguably more sustainable.”

Communities on a ‘date’

Once a prospective physician is in town, it’s important to make them feel welcome — give them guides around town, put them up in a nice place, and leave them a gift basket.

But a community shouldn’t try too hard, says Turgeon.

“You can compare it to a community being on a date,” he says. “You don’t want to be too overwhelming in your welcome, but there are very useful things that can be achieved by a community.

“Of course we have to walk the line between making it clear they are most welcome and needed, but at the same time we don’t want to portray it as a desperate situation.”

Turgeon says his committee is working with residents of Nakusp, and its recruiting committee, to develop their recruitment standards.

But ultimately it could be a while before Nakusp is restored to a full complement of doctors. Turgeon urges people to be patient.

“Support the efforts of your committee which has been formed… encourage them and be proud of your community and welcome any candidates to your area,” he says.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Nakusp and Kelowna businesses partner up to make face masks during COVID-19 crisis

The businesses expect to deliver their first set of masks on April 7 or 8

Castlegar wedding shows love conquers all

Brandon Melanson and Kimberly Patricia Melanson were married at Millennium Park last week.

Selkirk College starts COVID-19 emergency fund for students

The college has set aside up to $30,000 in matching funds for donations

Regional District of Central Kootenay changes services due to COVID-19

Building inspections and GIS services are some of the services impacted

Nakusp mayor provides update on landfill operations during COVID-19 crisis

Tom Zeleznik said installing debit machines outside the facility could help make operations safer

Canadians awake to extra COVID-19 emergency benefit money, fear it’s a mistake

The CRA and federal officials are working to clarify the confusion around payments

COVID-19 self-isolation plan or quarantine, returning B.C. residents told

Premier John Horgan says forms must be filled out by travellers

More than 400 animals have been adopted amid pandemic: B.C. SPCA

People are taking this time of social distancing to find a loyal companion through the animal welfare group

B.C. secures motel, hotel rooms for COVID-19 shelter space

Community centres, rooms reserved for pandemic self-isolation

Sanders drops 2020 bid, leaving Biden as likely nominee

Sanders plans to talk to his supporters later Wednesday

B.C. faith leaders, Horgan discuss need for virtual religious ceremonies

Leaders were open to providing other ways to celebrate during the pandemic

Emergency COVID-19 funding now available for children with special needs

Funding to be used to help support families through uncertain times of pandemic

Revenue dip needed to qualify for wage subsidy drops to 15% in March: Trudeau

Wage subsidy would over 75% of each employee’s salary for qualifying businesses

Most Read