Grand River Hospital fundraises for ER resident doctor salaries

Grand River Hospital is trying a new tactic to reduce wait times in its emergency department, by fundraising the salary of a new ER resident.

Hospital's fundraising arm calls idea a 'unique, made in Waterloo region solution'

A new fundraising campaign by the Grand River Hospital Foundation indicates one more person working in the hospital's emergency department would reduce wait times for moderately-ill patients. (Jackie Sharkey/CBC)

Grand River Hospital is trying a new tactic to reduce wait times in its emergency department, by fundraising the salary of a new ER resident.

Donation envelopes landed in mailboxes across the region last week. 

A unique, made in Waterloo region solution- Dr. Robert Wickett, chief of emergency medicine, Grand River Hospital

"The fact is, we do not have enough emergency physicians to serve our growing community," wrote Dr. Robert Wickett, the hospital's chief of emergency medicine, in the letter asking families to open their wallets to help recruit a doctor. 

"Most days, we need one more emergency physician so that we can see all patients quickly, not just those who are critically ill," he wrote.  

Sponsored work placement

The letter explains that one medical resident already works in the emergency room at Grand River Hospital, thanks to funding from the Ministry of Health. 

However, one doctor isn't enough to bring down wait times, according to the letter, which describes the fundraising idea as a "unique, made in Waterloo region solution" to an ongoing problem. 

The fundraiser is seeking to raise $300,000 from donors, which would pay for a second resident position a year for three years.

As part of the deal, the residents would also have to agree to an additional two years with the hospital, following the residency, Grand River Hospital president and CEO Malcolm Maxwell told CBC News. 

"That provides an additional set of hands in the short term, during their training, and that provides a likely recruit  here in our own community to either replace someone who's leaving or to grow the department," he said.  

Need to raise $300,000

Maxwell said the arrangement is possible because the new ER resident is not yet a full doctor, and not an employee whose salaries are paid by the Ministry of Health.

Medical resident salaries are paid by medical schools and in this case, the donated money would flow directly from the Grand River Hospital Foundation to McMaster University schools, creating a sort of sponsored work placement position.

"The ministry has no jurisdiction over hospital foundations, which are charities subject to oversight by the Ontario Public Guardian and Trustee," reads a statement from the Ministry of Health in response to a CBC inquiry about whether such an arrangement was permitted under current funding rules.

While the statement didn't expressly state it was allowed, a spokesperson wrote that "Grand River Hospital receives public funding from the province and is required to use that funding for patient care purposes in accordance with the terms of its hospital services accountability agreement with the Waterloo Wellington (WW) Local Health Integration Network."

About the Author

Jackie Sharkey

Associate Producer, CBC KW

Jackie Sharkey has worked all over the country with the CBC over the past decade, including Kelowna, Quebec City and Rankin Inlet, NU. She frequently reports on the arts and is particularly interested in stories where consumer and environmental issues intersect.


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