Haliburton County considers hiring physician recruiter

By Chad Ingram

Published Jan. 29 2019

During upcoming budget deliberations Haliburton County councillors will decide whether the county should hire a new staff person dedicated to the recruitment of physicians as well as economic development.

During a Jan. 23 meeting councillors received a report from chief administrative officer Mike Rutter regarding physician recruitment. There is an ongoing shortage of family and ER physicians in Haliburton County. According to Rutter’s report it is estimated the county currently requires two physicians and will require one to two new physicians every two to three years as local doctors retire.

A number of other communities in Ontario offer incoming physicians large financial incentives.

Others such as the City of Kawartha Lakes have a staff person dedicated to physician recruitment.

“We’re competing against other communities that have a dedicated resource doing this” Rutter told councillors.

At one time the county had a medical professional recruitment committee but that committee was disbanded in 2016 essentially because it had proven ineffective. As Rutter’s report indicated most of the successful recruitments the county has had have been resident doctors and locums who’ve spent time in the community.

“I do feel as though the county has been dipping its toe in the pool of physician recruitment” said Algonquin Highlands Mayor Carol Moffatt adding she was supportive of the idea.

“I’m hearing now over and over again that people are having a challenge getting a doctor” said Algonquin Highlands Deputy Mayor and County Warden Liz Danielsen.

Minden Hills Mayor Brent Devolin said he supported a change in the approach to physician recruitment.

“From my personal perspective in terms of recruitment of GPs in Minden it’s failing” Devolin said.

Minden has one family doctor.

There was some disagreement among councillors as to whether a physician recruiter should be a standalone role or married with the function of an economic development officer.

At one time the county’s tourism department included both tourism promotion and economic development but in 2013 the county council of the day decided to concentrate on tourism and leave economic development activities to the lower-tier townships.

Rutter suggested bringing economic development back under the county roof but noted this did not mean taking economic development responsibilities away from the lower tiers.

“It really needs to be happening in both places” he said. “One supports the other.”

“I would be supportive of that role being brought back to the county” said Dysart et al Mayor Andrea Roberts.

Some councillors though didn’t see physician recruitment and economic development as something that should be merged into one staff position.

“Those are separate issues to me” Devolin said.

Ultimately council decided they would include $75000 for a joint physician recruiter/economic development officer in the 2019 draft budget for consideration during upcoming budget deliberations.