Nova Scotia

Doctors Nova Scotia tackles physician recruitment with new fund

Doctors Nova Scotia has created a new grant that will help more physicians get involved in the costly recruitment process.

$50K fund will give out 10 grants for recruitment efforts that include physicians

Kevin Chapman of Doctors Nova Scotia says the idea is to get more physicians involved in the recruitment process as a complement to the Nova Scotia Health Authority's efforts. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

As soon as Cumberland County's doctor recruitment committee heard there might be new money available to help fund community recruitment efforts, they got on the phone.

The team has been aggressively applying for every grant possible over the last year, and it was the first to receive $5,000 from a new Doctors Nova Scotia initiative.

"Recruiting does cost money," said Dr. Janneke Gradstein, chair of the Cumberland committee. "You have to rent booths. You have to make recruitment materials. People need to travel to recruitment fairs."

That $5,000 may not seem like a lot, but it meant the community was able to set up a booth and send a team of eight people to the national rural and remote physician conference that was held in Halifax in April.

"It put Amherst and Cumberland County on the map as a place that you could come practise that was very positive," said Gradstein.

Yarmouth's chamber of commerce recently sent a physician and other representatives to a conference in Calgary to try to recruit new doctors. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

While communities are trying to ramp up their recruitment efforts, doctors in Nova Scotia are finding themselves in a catch-22. Many say they're overworked, but to recruit more help, they need to spend their downtime convincing others to move to their areas.

On top of that, many physicians are paid using a fee-for-service model. If they take days off to recruit, they don't get paid.

"And who has time to fundraise?" said Gradstein.

It's those challenges that pushed Doctors Nova Scotia to create the community physician hospitality fund, which is allocating $50,000 this year for 10 grants for recruitment efforts that include physicians.

"What we wanted to try and do was allow physicians to have the time to take the time to get to know potential recruits, to participate at job fairs and really become part of the process," said Kevin Chapman, the association's director of financing partnerships.

"What we wanted to do was supplement and complement the work of the [Nova Scotia] Health Authority and their recruiters by involving physicians in the recruitment process."

He said they've had half a dozen applications already. The money can be spent on events, material or an honorarium for physicians who may miss work to participate.

"It came about because we want to try and remove those impediments," said Chapman.

Kelli Lovett of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia explains the credentials needed to work in the province to an interested delegate at the BMJ Career Fair in London, England, in October 2018. She attended the event alongside physicians from the province. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

The creation of the Doctors Nova Scotia fund comes at the same time as the province announced it is offering $200,000 in grant money to help fund community level recruitment efforts.

"We all have a role to play in helping to attract highly-skilled doctors to work and live in our communities," wrote Heather Fairbairn, a Department of Health spokesperson, in a statement to CBC News.

"We welcome Doctors Nova Scotia in joining the effort with their new initiative."

In Amherst, involving physicians has made a significant difference to their recruitment efforts, said Gradstein. In the last year, they've attended four recruitment events and they've recruited about eight new physicians, with more leads in the works.

"You need the physicians on board so they can really sell the medical life of the community to the physicians, but you also need the community involved because physicians generally come with a family," said Gradstein.

"The morale, even in the last 12 months, in the physician community has done a complete 180," she said. "It has been remarkable."

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