British Columbia

Fort St. John medical residents offered 100K incentive

Medical residents practising in Fort St. John say they're grateful the Peace River Regional District has decided to help them out with a $100,000 incentive program

First and second year medical residents to share one-time payment of $100K

Medical residents in Fort St John will share a $100,000 one-time payment to help with high tuition and living costs. (Getty Images)

Medical residents practising in Fort St. John say they're grateful the Peace River Regional District has decided to help them out with a $100,000 incentive program.

With some of the highest rents in the province, Fort St. John has had an increasingly difficult time attracting and retaining young doctors to practise their residencies.

"As a young physician, I have come down with a significant amount of debt. At least fortunately we're paid now as a resident [but] the amount we are given is essentially only enough to keep us from incurring further debt — for some people it's not even enough for that," said Terri Hopkins, a second-year resident doctor in Fort St. John.

Last week, the Peace River Regional District authorized the $100,000 incentive payment to the North Peace Division of Family Practice for medical students in the first two years of their residencies.

Hopkins says she expects the money will allow her to continue her practice.

"This is incredibly generous of them… in terms of how much it costs them, it's actually quite huge. It's enough to keep one of my colleagues from going further into debt, and allow another one to actually maintain her rent payments."

Hopkins says the one-time payment of $100,000 split between the students will see each receive roughly $400 a month towards housing costs and exam fees, with enough left over for a small bonus.

"It's having quite a huge impact on us and we're so very thankful we're getting it."

More than just a money problem

Hopkins says pursuing medicine is a significant investment that is more than just about the cost of studying.

"It's both expensive in terms of the monetary cost and the time it takes to do it.When you think about how much it costs for tuition, you also have to think about it in terms of income loss as well."

"The program is intense enough that you just can't work while you're a medical student."

Hopkins, who is from Fort St. John, says she's decided to practice her residency there because of her attachment to her city, despite the high average costs of living adding to her already significant level of debt.

"I'm from here … I graduated high school here and I have family here. Plus I really love interacting with the people of the Peace region. They're an interesting bunch and they're always very welcoming of me."

She says not all physicians — especially those without ties to the community — can be expected to stay unless further incentives are offered to keep them in Fort St. John.

"As rural physicians, once we're finished our training in these programs, we can essentially go anywhere, and so, if cost of living is a prohibitive factor, then many people will find another place to work."

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