Newfoundland and Labrador slow to attract doctors: NLMA


The provincial government has said it wants to better coordinate physician recruitment and retention efforts, but the loss a few years ago of a position as Physician Recruitment Coordinator at Memorial University School of Medicine does not appear to match. to this desire.

No one seems to know what really happened to the post, which was first created in 2001. Sources suggest that the current coordinator has simply retired and no one has been hired in her place.

When asked for an explanation, the Department of Health pointed out that each of the province’s four regional health authorities has a physician recruiting manager and that they communicate regularly with MUN.

In a statement, the ministry said the Health Boards Association had a recruiting manager position that has been “replaced by recruiting activities from both the ministry and regional health authorities.”

It’s not clear if this was the post at the medical school, and the school’s current dean, Dr Margaret Steele, says the office was vacated before its time.

“This strategic location lent itself well to nurturing a healthy relationship with medical students throughout their training,” wrote Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association President Susan MacDonald, in a letter to members this week. “In addition, the recruiting office provided information to potential candidates nationally and internationally regarding practice opportunities across the province.

Dr. Susan MacDonald – Contribution

No apparent action

Speaking with doctors, academics, and even the Minister of Health himself, one gets the impression that centralizing recruiting efforts is the cornerstone of addressing the diminishing returns to physician retention in the province.

Yet there is no indication that progress is being made on this front.

Last month, the province’s largest health authority, Eastern Health, told the Telegram it was open to centralizing recruiting, but no such move was on its radar.

This, despite the fact that Health Minister Dr John Haggie said it was part of the government’s 2021 budget agenda in April.

The current approach seems to be one of crisis management, with regional health authorities (ORS) desperately filling vacancies as they arise and often compete with each other. Eastern Health is currently trying to fill a gap that will be left when two Bell Island doctors leave in late fall.

“Our members have informed us that the RHA physician recruitment efforts are primarily focused on urgent vacancies and substitutes for hospitals, with insufficient resources to focus on MUN Med or other Canadian provinces,” he said. writes MacDonald.

Meanwhile, there appears to be little organized effort to keep even local doctors at their posts.

In a recent interview, Steele said some medical school graduates at a physician recruiting workshop in June said they essentially felt abandoned after taking a rural assignment.

“They signed a three-year contract, and their contract was up in a week or two and no one had contacted them to say, ‘Do you want to stay?’ She said. “So the recruitment has to be centralized and it has to come to the medical school, the medical students and the residents, so the residents know what the opportunities are. “

Steele said some communities, such as Grand Falls-Windsor and Twillingate, are doing well in attracting and retaining doctors.

“But the whole process of recruiting and retaining physicians is everyone’s responsibility,” she said.

Dr Margaret Steele - Contribution
Dr Margaret Steele – Contribution

Compete with Nova Scotia

The NLMA letter came in response to Haggie’s public comments, in which he said the recently announced recruitment and retention initiatives in Nova Scotia mirrored many of the efforts already underway in that province.

MacDonald has cried foul, saying nothing here resembles Nova Scotia’s plan to tailor clinical health service plans to meet community needs and accommodate retirement plans for aging physicians.

Although it has been calling for a human resources plan for physicians for years, the NLMA has never seen a physician human resources plan prepared by the government or a recruitment and retention strategy, ”he said. -she writes.

In a previous press release, MacDonald explained how Nova Scotia’s new $ 55 million investment in physician retention could mean for Newfoundland and Labrador.

“We are already less competitive in family medicine than the other Atlantic provinces, let alone the rest of Canada,” she said. “The new recruiting incentives in Nova Scotia will put our province even further below the Atlantic average. This should alert everyone. “

Peter Jackson is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering health for The Telegram

[email protected]

Twitter: @pjackson_nl

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