British Columbia

Quesnel woos doctors with free home and car rentals

Faced with a systemic doctor shortage, Quesnel plans to keep its doctors over the summer by luring them to stay with free cars and rent.

City will pay $4,800 to house them, local car dealer to provide free cars for their use

Medical students will follow certain patients on their journey through treatment. (Getty Images)

To maintain its emergency medical services this summer, one rural community is offering free cars and rent to attract two doctors.

The city of Quesnel will pay $4,800 to house the doctors in a fully furnished home, and a local car dealer will provide two insured cars for the doctors to use.

"We have to find innovative ways to attract doctors here, said Quesnel Mayor Bob Simpson, who admitted rural areas are competing against each other for qualified physicians.  

In Fort St. John for example, a doctor shortage forced the local clinic to curtail their emergency department and raised fears within the community, Simpson said.

"We didn't want to be in that situation." 

The two doctors will remain in Quesnel under these arrangements until the end of October.  

This short-term solution will make sure the emergency departments are adequately staffed during a four-month window during which some of the doctors will be away, Simpson said. 

Systemic doctor shortages

Based on the city's demographics, Quesnel should have 32 doctors in town, Simpson said. Instead, it has just 23 and between now and next June, it will lose nine more.

"It's a time of life issue for the most part," said Simpson.

Rural medicine is a demanding job, and many doctors have to juggle private practice, emergency room shifts and other hospital coverage, he said. 

"At some point, that becomes untenable, especially if you have two doctors in a household, which is a case with six of the doctors that are leaving. It's actually three couples," he said. 

Simpson said many of the doctors who are leaving are at the stage in their lives where they want to spend more time with their families.  

"We're now scrambling to try and figure out how to backfill what is effectively a natural evolution in doctors cycling through a rural community like ours."

These freebies are only a temporary fix, said Simpson, who noted that the city has a broader recruitment retention strategy underway.

"Over the course of the next year, through partnering with Northern Health, we think we can address our long-term doctor shortage."

To hear the full interview with Quesnel Mayor Bob Simpson, listen to the audio labelled: Quesnel woos doctors with free rent and cars.


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