Manitoba offers extra cash to doctors who extend clinic hours, ups number of physician training seats by 80
Province also announces physician mental health supports in latest effort to address doctor shortage
The Manitoba government is hoping extra money, more mental health supports and a boost in physician training seats will help address doctor shortages in the province.
The province will add 80 of the training seats and more supports to address physician burnout, which advocacy group Doctors Manitoba has repeatedly said is at an all-time high.
As of Feb. 1, doctors who extend patient hours at family and pediatric clinics are also eligible for a 20 per cent premium on extended billing hours, Manitoba Health Minister Audrey Gordon said at a news conference Monday.
Gordon said the incentives are meant to make care options more convenient for patients while reducing pressures in emergency and urgent care settings.
"This will ensure primary care providers and pediatricians are readily available to families ... when they need it most," she said at the news conference in Winnipeg.
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"It also helps our entire health-care ecosystem function more efficiently."
Eligible extended hours can be used to see existing patients or take walk-ins. Those hours are weekdays from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. to midnight, and weekends and recognized holidays from 7 a.m. to midnight, a news release said.
The province is also funding the expansion of new undergraduate physician training seats by 40, and adding 40 seats to help train more internationally trained physicians to help them get licensed in Manitoba.
Ten of those seats will be part of the University of Manitoba's one-year international medical graduate program. Another 30 will be added to the two-year postgraduate medical education program for internationally educated medical students, the release said.
Advanced Education and Training Minister Sarah Guillemard said adding the 80 positions helps Manitoba's medical education programs "keep pace" with population growth "while supporting the longer term sustainability of physician graduates able to work in the province's health system."
"This work will help give all Manitobans better access to quality and timely health care and supports," said Guillemard.
The province will also commit $450,000 for a physician peer support program that will provide training and peer support networks for doctors, Gordon said. That comes in response to one of several recommendations from a rural and northern summit hosted by Doctors Manitoba and the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce in October, Gordon said.
The latest announcements are part of a health human resources action plan the province announced last fall following pleas from Doctors Manitoba for the province to prioritize physician recruitment, retainment, mental health supports and ways of cutting down on paperwork and administrative burdens, among other issues.
'Innovative and unique' program
Dr. Kristjan Thompson, past president of Doctors Manitoba, called the financial incentive program "innovative and unique" in Canada and said it will run as an 18-month trial.
Thompson said about half of the 80 physicians who attended a webinar last week and were briefed on the change signalled they intend to keep their clinics open longer as a result.
"Today brings another announcement from government with more actions that will improve the recruitment and retention of physicians in this province and it is directly responsive to the advice we have offered," Thompson said at the news conference.
In the weeks and months following the Doctors Manitoba summit last fall, Gordon announced $200 million would be spent to help add 2,000 health-care workers to the system, along with several initiatives that mirror Doctors Manitoba recommendations.
Doctors Manitoba also previously called for the creation of a hub that connects specialists with doctors, particularly those in rural areas and the north, to advise on complex cases and reduce the number of emergency cases requiring transportation to urban centres such as Winnipeg.
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Gordon responded in December with the announcement of such a service, dubbed the virtual emergency care and transfer resource service, or VECTRS.
At the end of January, Doctors Manitoba and the Canadian Federation for Independent Business (CFIB) reiterated concerns about doctors drowning in paperwork.
Days later, Doctors Manitoba appeared alongside a CFIB representative and Gordon as the province announced a task force that will look for ways to reduce administrative burdens and free up physicians for more patient care and support doctor retention.
Dr. Shelley Anderson said burnout is the "biggest threat to physician retention" and she acknowledged the implication that extending clinic hours may seem "counterintuitive" to some for that reason.
Anderson, medical lead for physician health and wellness with Doctors Manitoba, said the incentive program isn't akin to mandated overtime but more about giving physicians greater options around when they choose to work.
"It might be able to add some flexibility, so if people wanted to choose their work hours later into the evening, or into those typical off-hour periods of time, that actually might be better for their own personal needs," she said.
"Anything that allows for a little bit more control and agency over how care is provided will help physicians' well-being overall."