Nova Scotia

Business owners in Cape Breton create website to lure doctors to area

A new website and video touts the advantages of living on the island and links directly to the more than two dozen job openings for specialists and family doctors in Cape Breton.

Website and video tout advantages of small-town and rural lifestyle

A new website funded by business people in Cape Breton aims to lure doctors to the island. (doctorscapebreton.com)

It may not be a complete cure.

But members of Cape Breton's business community have come up with their own prescription to fix the island's doctor shortage.

A new website, doctorscapebreton.com, touts the advantages of living on the island and links directly to the more than two dozen job openings for specialists and family doctors in Cape Breton.

The site includes a promotional video, complete with scenic shots of mountains, trails and lakes, and interviews with doctors who've chosen to live and work on the island.

Small-town lifestyle

Blair Williams, an otolaryngologist, talks about the small-town lifestyle in the video.

"We bought a house that is a five-minute drive to my office, and a five-minute drive to the hospital, and it was probably half the price of what we'd pay for a similar size house in Halifax," he said.

"Everything lined up to make this a really easy decision."

That rural lifestyle is a theme throughout the video. One doctor said when he needs to reach a local specialist, he can call them "by their first name."

Another references the relaxed feeling in her waiting room, where many patients know one another. 

"Sometimes it's almost like a party in the waiting room," said Dr. Stephanie Ellerker, a family doctor in Glace Bay, N.S.

Site funded by business owners

The video and website were produced and paid for by about a dozen business owners in Cape Breton.

Stuart MacLeod, the owner of an insurance company in Sydney, came up with the idea over lunch with a local surgeon, Dr. Rex Dunn. The two were talking about the loss of a number of doctors in Cape Breton earlier this year.

"We all have families, staff and we have clients. And we're part of the community and we feel some sort of responsibility," said MacLeod.

Stuart MacLeod raised $12,000 to start the website doctorscapebreton.com. (Wendy Martin/CBC)

MacLeod raised $12,000 for the project. He said every business owner he approached immediately agreed to donate.

Dunn, a member of the recruitment committee at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital, calls the video and website a "gift."

He said the testimonials from doctors will be more effective in reaching out to medical school graduates than traditional tourism or business videos that promote the island.

"When you have something to actually show these folks — look, this is what it's really like there, and here's some very credible, very talented, very capable doctors telling you this — then it's got to make a difference," said Dunn.

Many vacancies

Last month, the Nova Scotia Health Authority said 16 new doctors have been recruited for Cape Breton.

The hires came in the wake of rallies in the spring by doctors who said the pending departures of specialists and family doctors had become a "crisis."

But there are still many openings.

There are nine family doctor vacancies and it's anticipated there will be another eight in the future.

Cape Breton also needs a dozen more specialists, including psychiatrists and geriatricians, and the health authority anticipates 14 more positions will soon become vacant.

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