Retired doctor pitches new strategy to recruit more doctors
New Brunswick has 84 positions open for physicians in the province
A retired doctor is arguing that he has the best way to recruit doctors to the province as thousands of New Brunswickers continue to wait for a physician.
The province has 84 positions open for doctors and that number will continue to grow as more physician retire.
The New Brunswick government unfurled its latest doctor recruitment strategy in September, but Dr. Donald Craig says he has a better solution.
Craig, who began practising medicine in 1968, is now pouring his energy into a scholarship-based medical education fund.
- New Brunswick saw number of doctors drop by 53 in 2015
- Health minister sets up centralized doctor recruitment plan
He said this strategy will prove more effective in keeping young physicians in the province.
The New Brunswick Medical Education Foundation began offering scholarships in 2010 to students in the province's new medical school in Saint John.
Unlike most government programs that target the graduate, this program was aimed at the students for a very specific reason.
"When they're in school, they need the money. They really need the money. And we can latch on to our best students," Craig said.
"We're looking for our best students. And we're trying to get them early because by the time they get to the graduating phase, ready to come out and go to work, everyone's chasing them."
When the foundation was being constructed, Craig said they thought the provincial government would offer matching funds.
While the foundation raised $6 million, the provincial government only anted up $500,000.
The initial results of the scholarship-based recruitment tool are positive.
1st doctors starting
Dr. Catherine Becker was one of three students who received $48,000 in scholarships and she agreed to give back one year of service for each year of funding.
Becker is from Saint John and her husband is from Ontario.
She admits she was leaning towards staying in the province, but the relationship and mentorship she had with people in the foundation, cemented the deal.
"We've purchased a home and started a young family, so I hope to be taking on my first family practice patients in about 18 months, and the goal is to be here in Saint John," she said.
All three sponsored students stayed in the province.
Concerns with strategy
"The trust bases its approach on a return-of-service agreement. A lot of the research points to the fact that return-of-service agreements aren't always as successful as you would like," he said.
"And people who do sign them, were ready to stay to begin with. So there are some gaps there we need to fill in beyond that."
In the fall, the provincial government outlined its latest strategy to bring more doctors to New Brunswick.
The provincial government announced it would hire a new recruiter and centralize the office. This is not the first time that the Department of Health has had a physician recruiter within its ranks.
Craig said he doesn't believe this latest strategy is going to be any more effective.
"That's smoke and mirrors, that's not going to work," he said.
"The answer is you got to get the program started in the beginning, you got to start with the students from New Brunswick."
Craig said the foundation has signed up 50 students to return.
The Department of Health says it has recruited 263 family physicians and 284 specialists since 2010.
The New Brunswick Medical Society estimates 50,000 New Brunswickers are without a family doctor.
With files from Catherine Harrop