Doctor recruitment difficult in Central Newfoundland

The head of doctor recruitment in Grand Falls-Windsor says winter is a hard time to bring in new physicians.
Family doctors in Grand Falls-Windsor are not accepting new patients, forcing people without a GP to use walk-in clinics, reports Lindsay Bird. James Rourke, MUN's dean of medicine, is hoping to resolve the issue of doctor shortages, reports Robyn Miller. 4:26

The head of doctor recruitment in Grand Falls-Windsor says winter is a hard time to bring in new doctors.

None of the family physicians in the town are accepting new patients, forcing anyone without a general practitioner to rely on walk-in clinics.

Dr. Jared Butler said that patients will have to be patient and wait until new doctors graduate from medical school.

Dr. Jared Butler, head of doctor recruitment in Grand Falls-Windsor, says that patients without family doctors will have to wait until new doctors arrive in the town. (CBC)

"Unfortunately, the way recruitment works in doctors, it's much like a draft system - you have to wait for them to come out of school, in order for them to be available to come work here," Butler said.

"There are times when you are fortunate enough to get a physician in winter, or fall time, but most of the time you get them in the spring or summer."

Butler said one new doctor is expected to arrive by spring, with another two or three in the fall.

MUN hoping to resolve doctor shortages

Doctor shortages in the province, like the one in Grand Falls-Windsor, are what Memorial University's medical school is working to eliminate.

Paula Slaney, a first year medical student at MUN, grew up on the Burin Peninsula. She said the problem is the misconception surrounding rural healthcare.

Paula Slaney, a first year medical student at MUN in St. John's, says there is a misconception about rural medicine and that new doctors should try it first. (CBC)

"A lot of times, people think that they're going to be in the middle of nowhere," Slaney said.

"And they just don't understand the community and the family feel of rural medicine and what and integral role you play in the community."

Dr. James Rourke, MUN dean of medicine, said that Slaney is exactly the kind of student the university is working to recruit.

"In our experience, if you're from Newfoundland, you're trained here, you're much more likely to stay here," Rourke said.

"And if you're from a rural area in particular, you're much more likely to be comfortable practicing in a rural area for a long time."

He said that there is an expansion planned for the medical school that will allow 20 more students from the province to enrol in the program each year.

"That will dramatically increase the production of doctors in Newfoundland, for Newfoundland."

There are opportunities for students to do hands-on training in rural centres.

Slaney said that this could be the key to changing the perception many people have about rural medicine.

"Don't turn it down until you try it first."