Nova Scotia

Yarmouth using free housing to help with doctor recruitment

Yarmouth is offering medical students a free place to live three doors down from the regional hospital in an effort to lure more of them to the region. It's the latest creative solution to the community's doctor shortage.

Local chamber of commerce renovating a house three doors down from the hospital

The chamber of commerce takes possession of the house on Vancouver Street on Oct. 31. (Google Earth)

Yarmouth, N.S., is offering medical students a free place to live three doors down from the regional hospital in an effort to lure more of them to the region. 

It's the latest creative solution to the community's shortage of physicians.

Kerry Muise, vice-president of the Yarmouth and Area Chamber of Commerce, believes the hard work is starting to pay off.

"Things move fast here in Yarmouth, so we just started talking about this about a month ago," she told CBC's Information Morning on Friday.

"Offer was made Monday, house was bought Tuesday, deal closes next Tuesday and we expect to start renovating almost immediately."

The large brick house on Vancouver Street, which was bought by Coastal Financial Credit Union, will be divided into an area for medical students to stay for free for a few weeks or months.

There will also be three separate apartments — a three-bedroom, two-bedroom and one-bedroom — that will be rented to medical residents and their families at an affordable rate, Muise said.  

"We've also had local contractors step up and say, 'Look, I'm willing to build some units and dedicate them for resident housing,' which is huge as well," she said. 

Finding affordable housing was identified as a big problem for medical residents arriving to work in the community.

Muise hopes the student portion of the house will be ready for people to move in by February. 

2 anesthesiologists have arrived 

The hospital was in a bind earlier this year when three of its four anesthesiologists left. The Nova Scotia Health Authority warned the community that some procedures could be affected, including the delivery of babies.

The health authority said that's no longer the case and that babies are being delivered in Yarmouth. 

The Yarmouth and Area Chamber of Commerce is trying to help bring more doctors to the regional hospital by offering free, or affordable, housing. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

Two anesthesiologists are now working at the hospital after a second one arrived in September. With the help of locum anesthesiologists, they are back to 24/7 anesthesia coverage, a spokesperson said. 

But the recruitment work isn't over. 

The health authority continues to work with the community navigator, hired by the chamber of commerce, to find two more anesthesiologists to fill the remaining vacancies. 

'It's definitely working'

This summer, the chamber of commerce tried to attract doctors with the promise of lobster for a year.

"It's definitely working," Muise said. "I think the medical community is super excited that the business community has gotten behind this and is helping."

Muise said she knows of two, or possibly three, residents who are staying in Yarmouth to practise after they complete their requirements.

She announced the free housing idea at a gala put on by the Yarmouth and Area Chamber of Commerce on Thursday.

"By the end of the night we had about another $70,000 in in-kind donations announced," Muise said. "So the community is super excited rallying around this. We don't do things small here in Yarmouth."

She said both levels of government have stepped in to help, but the community is taking the lead.  

"We can't just depend on government … to always be the one that sells the community," she said. "We can do that ourselves. We're good at it."

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With files from CBC's Information Morning and Carolyn Ray

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