Nova Scotia

B.C. town sees success after hiring its own doctor recruiter

Among the advertisements for provinces and regions at a rural doctors' meeting in St. John's, the small town of Creston, B.C., made sure it was known that it, too, is in the market for more physicians.

Marilin States says area has recruited 4 doctors in 6 years at conference N.S. didn't attend

Marilin States recruits physicians for the Creston Valley in B.C. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

Among the advertisements for provinces and regions at a rural doctors' meeting in St. John's, the small town of Creston, B.C., made sure it was known that it, too, is in the market for more physicians. 

Marilin States is the dedicated physician recruiter for Creston Valley, which offers health services to an area with 15,000 people. While B.C is dealing with a serious shortage of physicians, Creston Valley has a vacancy rate of just one-and-a-half doctors.

States credits that with the creation of her job several years ago, when the town decided to stop depending on others, and put recruitment in its own hands. 

"It's part of our economic development because it really does sustain a better community if you have physicians in the community, and physicians who provide services at the hospital as well as services at the clinic," States said. 

States was one of dozens of recruiters who descended on the Rural and Remote Medicine Course from April 12 to 14. 

Outrage over missing conference

There was outrage after CBC News reported that the Nova Scotia Health Authority didn't send its own recruitment team to the same meeting, saying it was expensive and, historically, an unsuccessful endeavour for the province.

Linda Murray, the wife of a Cape Breton physician who wants to retire, said it sent a message that Nova Scotia doesn't need help, even though the province has a comparable physician shortage to British Columbia. 

Linda Murray, who desperately wants her physician husband to retire, questioned why Nova Scotia skipped the rural doctors meeting. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

States said the rural and remote conference is the best place to promote her small town.

"This is really where we need to be, and we have had success here, having recruited physicians even from last year who are now working in Creston."

4 physicians recruited

Creston is home to a small local hospital, and States describes the physicians in the community as semi-specialists who take on the full scope of medicine.

States says in the six years she's attended, Creston has managed to recruit four physicians. 

"That makes it absolutely worth it to come, and even coming from across the country, I'm still seeing physicians from B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, literally across the entire country are here."

Physician recruiter Gwen Devereaux started working with Goderich, Ont., when it was down to five physicians. It now has 18. (Steve Lawrence/CBC)

Creston Valley's success is similar to other communities who have overcome their own health-care scares. The town council of Goderich, Ont., for example, teamed up with the hospital's physician recruiter to campaign for doctors. It now has 18 physicians for a population of 8,000. 

She suggests other towns that are currently struggling could see success if they follow in Creston's shoes. 

"I believe that the difference is that I'm the boots-on-the-ground person who lives in that community, who is part of the community and represents my community."

About the Author

Carolyn Ray

Videojournalist

Carolyn Ray is a videojournalist who has reported out of three provinces and two territories, and is now based in Halifax. You can reach her at Carolyn.Ray@cbc.ca