The town of Smiths Falls will continue to invest in ongoing efforts to bring new physicians to the area, councillors agreed at a meeting on Sept. 11.
Providing an update on the full-time physician recruitment effort the Perth and Smiths Falls District Hospital has been leading since 2014, recruiter Carlene MacDonald told council that 16 new doctors have come to the area thanks to those efforts. As a result, she added, the percentage of patients coming to the hospital emergency department without a family physician has decreased from 12 per cent in 2014 to six per cent last year.
Also attending the presentation to council, hospital Chief Administrative Officer Bev McFarlane said recruitment has become a full-time, specialized field, “and that’s certainly because there are scarce medical resources.”
With financial support from the towns of Smiths Falls and Brockville, and from the Great War Memorial and Smiths Falls Community Hospital Foundations, MacDonald is responsible for physician recruitment throughout Lanark, Leeds and Grenville.
Although the hospital is taking the lead administratively, added McFarlane, the program benefits the entire community, and helps to fuel economic growth. “This really is about a community coming together,” she said.
The recruiter works to build relations and connections with medical students, in the hope of attracting them to the community after they graduate. She also looks after the logistics of arranging visits by physicians from out of the province, and tries to ensure that the candidate is a good fit for the community and the hospital, which can include finding job opportunities for spouses.
McDonald said she averages 10 inquiries per month, and arranges about 12 site visits a year. Since 2014, a total of 16 new physicians have come to the area, including an anaesthesiologist, five hospitalists, four emergency room physicians, and six family doctors. At the same time, two doctors have retired, for a net gain of 14. The new physicians include three who have set up practice at Smiths Falls’ Cornelia Court Medical Centre.
An additional four physicians are needed to best serve the needs of the area, including one more family doctor for the Cornelia Court Medical Centre.
Arguing that “it is important to have stability in the recruiter role,” McFarlane asked council to continue the town’s financial support for the program. In the past the town has contributed $10,000 annually.
Councillor Jay Brennan, the town’s representative on the local hospital board, called that, “an investment in our future health in our community.”
“I think you’re going to have unanimous support for whatever you need,” said Councillor Chris Cummings, chairing council’s Sept. 11 Committee of the Whole meeting.