The Dryden Observer

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Doctor recruitment in spotlight

Chris Marchand

Chris Marchand served as editor of the Dryden Observer from August 2009 to April 2018.

Local health care issues earn national exposure, new solutions presented

The Olympic Torch shed light on more than just a community’s spirit last week.

Thanks to a visit from Globe and Mail reporter Susan Krashinsky, the challenges facing Dryden Regional Health Centre’s physician recruitment and retention strategy and the frustrations of local residents seeking timely health care found its way to page three of a national newspaper.

Titled ‘Hippocratic oath meets Herculean challenge’ Krashinsky’s article delves into the creative means local hospital officials use to compete with larger centres to attract doctors, and speaks to both local physicians and patients.

“I think, politically, it puts the whole issue on the map,” said Dryden Regional Health Service Foundation physician recruiter Chuck Schmitt. “You can’t buy that kind of exposure. Certainly we’re making headway, but it illustrates the plight we’re all facing – Kenora, Fort (Frances), Sioux Lookout – we’re all in the same boat. It’s tough to get people up here.”

Schmitt says the story was equally valuable exposure for the hospital’s $160,000 three-year incentive program and the community’s lifestyle based approach to attracting doctors.

“Getting that message out about what we offer in Dryden is gravy,” he said.

With momentum in their favour, Schmitt and Dryden Regional Health Services Foundation Peter Burns appeared at council to pitch a creative long-term solution to the continuing challenges of attracting physicians to the community.

Schmitt asked the city to consider a loan to help establish a Northern Ontario School of Medicine bursary that will grow and address recruitment needs for Dryden in perpetuity.

Schmitt says the Health Service Foundation has secured an interest free loan of $350,000 from a private citizen who wishes to remain anonymous. Using matching funds from the Ontario Trust for Student Support (OTSS), he says a pool of $700,000 could realistically generate a return of $28,000 of bursary funds per year.

Schmitt asked the city to consider a number of options in regards to paying back the anonymous lender over a period of 10 years, such as: using interest from city reserves; considering a health care levy of $1 per month on the city’s 3,200 residential dwellings; or a combination of the two means.

“We’re just looking at some creative longer-term solutions so that we’re not constantly in a crisis-mode,” said Schmitt. “We’re working at building stability and capacity over time, so that we don’t have to worry so much whether ‘emerg’ is going to close, or it takes too long to get in to see your physician.”

While Schmitt says fundraising was considered for the potential NOSM bursary, the Health Services Foundation was wary, given the current economic situation in the area, that the public has little appetite for a large-scale fundraising initiative at this time.

“We’ve just been through the very successful campaign for the CT Scan. We think people are maxed out,” said Peter Burns. “But thanks to this anonymous person who is forfeiting a great deal of money because he’s lent it to us interest free – that’s a wonderful incentive. It’s a new doctor every four years. We also recognize that the city is strapped for funds, but this plan that Chuck has come up with is a great opportunity that I hope we can take advantage of.”

For a link to the Globe and Mail/CTV story on Dryden’s health care and doctor recruitment challenges , check out our website at ‘www.thedrydenobserver.ca’.

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