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County Docs recruitment seeks funding to continue efforts into year two

JAN. 19: UPDATE: Council has directed staff to consider County Docs’ request for physician recruitment and retention in the 2023 budget process. Council also asks that staff bring forward terms of reference regarding a County-led working group that would work in conjunction with County Docs on issues outside of that program’s scope (i.e. Nurse Practitioner clinics, office space, advocacy). The working group would include other stakeholders to plan for long-term recruitment supports, critical infrastructure goals and provincial advocacy support.


JAN. 18: The County Docs Physician Recruitment and Retention Program seeks council approval for $250,000 for year two efforts to get new doctors here.

“The physician shortage in Prince Edward County continues to be critical although we have stopped some of the hemorrhage,” said Dr. Anne Nancekievill in a presentation to council’s special meeting Thursday afternoon. “More action
is required if we are to build on these early successes.”

Nancekievill’s report tells council that prior to 2020, there was little difficulty recruiting physicians and since 2016 11 new doctors came here.

“Recruitment challenges began during the pandemic, where we saw burnout and numerous career departures in the healthcare sector – across the country.”

Facing the departure of five family doctors last year which would have resulted in approximately 5,500 orphan patients, council approved a 100,000 physician hiring incentive and $50,000 toward a recruitment program. The Physician group contributed a one time donation of $40,000 to hire a recruiter to develop and run a recruitment program.

The County’s $100,000 incentive to physicians is to be paid out over five years in return for a minimum of five years of service.

There are five doctor vacancies in the County now, with more departures confirmed for this year.

Nancekievill explained there is also a national shortage of family physicians with 2,572 active full-time postings but just 1,451 graduating physicians and a smaller proportion of those willing to consider a rural practice. This, she notes, results in competition for diminishing resources.

For year two, the County Docs seeks a full-time person dedicated to finding new physicians and investing in current physicians. Year one, it notes, supported a part-time salary and showed that a full-time person is needed.

The three funding asks include:
– $50,000 established in last year’s budget plus a new $50,000 to secure the full-time physician recruiter (total $100,000);
– $50,000 to continue efforts begun in year one;
– and $100K to remain as a line item in the budget to offer new physicians (total is $100,000).

Nancekievill noted recruiter Adam Hambly was hired in mid-July and “we received tremendous traction in our first six months.” A County Docs website is to be fully launched next month and a locum for a one-year contract (possible permanent) has been secured. Locums usually assist with vacation coverage but in this case helped stabilize a practice where the doctor retired and 1,200 patients were not orphaned.

Five recruitment site visits have been completed and more than 20 more virtual connections were made with leads – two of which are considered promising.

In year one, the County Docs Physician Retention and Recruitment program also started creating supports for retaining current physicians and is building locum pools to prevent burnout and has launched a Doctor Accommodation Network (DAN) to support housing for locums and new physicians. There were 19 respondents resulting in 12 properties within the network so far.

There are currently 18 family doctors serving more than 25,000 residents in the County, plus the services required during the tourism seasons.

The Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital Foundation has also partnered with County Docs to invest in the future of healthcare delivery in PEC by launching a new Physician Recruitment and Retention Fund allowing community members who wish to contribute to the initiatives to attract and retain doctors here.

Nancekievill noted among key lessons learned that it could take years to bring the County back to a full compliment of physicians.

The special committee of the whole meeting is set for 1 p.m. Thursday.

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