Reviewing physician recruitment program

By Chad Ingram

Haliburton County councillors discussed a number of potential changes to the county’s physician recruitment program during a Dec. 16 meeting.

The county has a recruitment committee and a physician recruitment co-ordinator in the form of Cheryl Kennedy, formerly the administrator of the Haliburton Highlands Family Health Team. A report received by councillors last week made a number of suggestions, including expanding the scope of the county’s recruitment work to clinics outside of its borders that serve its residents, namely the clinics in Kinmount and Dorset.

“The reality is those clinics provide care to a lot of residents of Haliburton County,” said chief administrative officer Mike Rutter, explaining it was the recommendation that if 20 per cent of the patients of a clinic were residents of Haliburton County, that the county assist in recruitment efforts.

“That’s not significant to me,” said Dysart et al Mayor Andrea Roberts, wondering why the figure of 20 per cent had been chosen.

“From my perspective, it was more about numbers,” said Rutter, adding that the 20 per cent threshold would mean that for a clinic with 750 patients on its roster, at least 150 of them would reside in the county.

Algonquin Highlands Mayor Carol Moffatt wondered about the specifics of determining where patients lived, since presumably that would involve accessing their files. Moffatt also wondered at what point the county would approach neighbouring municipalities about funding.

In the case of the Dorset Health Hub, “The roster is full from what I understand, it’s very difficult to get in there,” Moffatt said. “And I would like to see a conversation between the operators of that clinic and the county before agreeing to this.”

“I agree that we need to have a conversation knowing how many people in Minden Hills, including my own family, use the one in Kinmount,” said Minden Hills Mayor Brent Devolin, adding he too wanted to see what percentage of patients at the clinic were actually from Haliburton County. “Since I’ve sat in this chair, there’s been more doctors in Kinmount than there has been in Minden.”

“This is a fulsome report with suggestions, recommendations for a number of significant changes in this program,” said Moffatt. “This program is really maturing and the fact that there is an interest in having further discussion on this particular part is good news.”

Among other recommendations was the expansion of the terms of reference for the county’s recruitment activities, including the recruitment of rural generalists, nurse practitioners and locums.

“It is a really important part of physician recruitment,” Rutter said of locums. “Physician burnout in rural practice is a really significant issue, so this is one area where we can ensure that the physicians get the respite that they require, but also that when they’re on that leave of one form or another, that the community is still receiving medical care.

There is also a recommendation to change the financial incentives offered to physicians by the county. Haliburton County currently offers $25,000 per year to physicians who make a four-year commitment of service, and a maximum payout of $150,000 for a six-year commitment. Research found that most communities seem to offer incentives of between $100,000 and $150,000 for a five-year term. The recommended change is to provide $25,000 a year for a rural generalist up to a maximum of six years, and $25,000 per year up to a maximum of four years for family and emergency doctors.

It’s also recommended that up to $5,000 worth of moving expenses for incoming physicians be covered by the county.