(Photo courtesy of © Can Stock Photo Inc. / jirsak)

Municipality takes strides in physician recruitment plan

The Municipality of Chatham-Kent is moving forward with a new Physician Recruitment and Retention Task Force aimed at bringing more doctors to the area.

On Monday night, council unanimously approved a report that detailed the task force and its initiatives. The program will look at various ways to attract physicians to Chatham-Kent and keep them here including attending family doctor job fairs, enhancing advertising practices and providing financial incentives to new physicians to cover their moving expenses and setup costs.

In December 2018, Councillor Trevor Thompson brought forward a motion requesting that administrative staff prepare the report looking at a primary care practitioner recruitment and retention program for Chatham-Kent. Almost a year later, Thompson said it feels good to see all the hard work come to fruition.

“It was a lot of work,” he said. “It took a little bit longer than I was actually hoping for, I would have liked to have seen it back about six months ago. But at the same time, staff did a lot of work to get us to this point and I think really found a good balance.”

A total of $100,000 towards the Physician Recruitment and Retention Task Force was approved in the 2019 budget and the project will start in 2020. The Chatham-Kent Family Health Team (CK FHT) will look after and distribute the funds on behalf of the other medical groups (Chatham-Kent Family Health Team, Thamesview Family Health Team, Tilbury District Family Health Team, CK Community Health Centres, and the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance) with resource support from the Erie St. Clair LHIN, HealthForce Ontario and the municipality.

“As soon as we approved the $100,000 there were questions about where does it go to, who does it help? What I wanted to make sure of is that we weren’t just offsetting somebody else’s budget,” Thompson explained. “But, this was new money for a new initiative. [I’m] really happy to see this campaign promise come through, really happy to be addressing a crisis in our community.”

When Thompson brought forward his original motion in 2018, Chatham-Kent’s rate of family doctors was 76.9 per 100,000 population against the provincial average of 109.4 per 100,000. The report approved by council on Monday recommended that only running the task force for 2020 was not enough to address the chronic doctor shortage and suggested that ongoing funding for the program be referred to the 2021 budget process as well. Thompson said he was pleased to see this option approved.

“At the time it was one-time funding — $100,000 and from there, who knows what happens. One time isn’t going to bring it, it has to be an ongoing funding request. I’m glad to see that come back again,” he said.

Now that it’s been given the green light to move forward, the task force will provide council with bi-annual updates on what’s been accomplished and any future initiative plans. Thompson said overall, he believes this is an important step in the right direction.

“The health of our residents is the economic and the demographic lifeblood of our community,” he exclaimed. “Making this a happier healthier place to live is one of the most important things we can do as Chatham-Kent councillors.”

-With files from Paul Pedro