With keen competition to attract doctors, the Township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands staff and council say they have recognized the need for a recruitment strategy and incentives to bring physicians in the area.

The shortage of family physicians is pervasive throughout Ontario. Many jurisdictions in the province are experiencing shortages of medical professionals, which affects the level and quality of care of members of the public.

The incentives proposed by a working group, together with a proposed budget, will help the township compete with other jurisdictions in securing family physicians, officials here believe.

All councillors were on board with the proposal.

“I think it’s disappointing that it has come to the fact that municipalities need to get into this, but I am encouraged by the partnership by not only the medical centres that are located in Gananoque, Seeley’s Bay and Lansdowne, they already work together really well, and with the Town of Gananoque and our municipal representatives I’m encouraged that we should be able to find somebody somewhere, maybe more than one, that will come and plug the holes in the dam,” said TLTI Mayor Corinna Smith-Gatcke.

In April 2023, with council’s approval, a working group was formed to consider a strategy for recruiting physicians to the township. Health professionals within the township work closely with their colleagues in Gananoque, which is also facing a potential physician shortfall. Accordingly, representatives from Gananoque were invited to join the working group.

It was noted that Gananoque council has not yet considered the incentives or its level of financial participation for physician recruitment.

The TLTI proposal, meanwhile, offers experiential locums, clinics offering short duration locum placements of one to two months to physicians who have indicated they are interested practicing in the township.

Local officials believe this is a risk-free way for physicians to come to the area and experience the local medical environment, as well as the amenities the township offers. It also provides an opportunity for clinics to assess the visiting physician as a possible permanent hire for a retiring physician.

With this, local volunteers serve as township ambassadors to liaise with locums and ensure they have an opportunity to experience the area, such as going for hikes, seeing the sights, fishing, kayaking/canoeing.

The township plans to offer a grant to the clinic/employer of 40 per cent of the locum’s salary. The physicians on the working group advised that the 40 per cent figure would roughly cover the additional overhead costs of having a locum physician.

The going pay rate for a physician locum is $1,000 – $1,200 per day. The annual total amount of grant funding for compensation assistance by the township is $60,000 (at salary of $1,100/day with grant assistance of 40 per cent, $60,000 would translate into 136 locum days or approximately seven months).

The allocation of locum days can be divided equally, according to staff’s report, between the Seeley’s Bay Medical Centre and St. Lawrence District Medical Centre.

Recognizing that the program would not be starting until July at the earliest, the proposed $60,000 annual grant funding for 2023 would be $40,000 (being 90 locum days or approximately 4.5 months); and a housing allowance ($2,000/month) if the locum temporarily resides in the township or transportation allowance ($350/week) if the locum commutes to the township. Either allowance would be for the period of the locum.

Other incentives (‘Commitment Incentives’) listed in staff’s report can be used to attract physicians but would not incur an actual outlay of funds until the physician has committed to practising in the area.

With council’s approval, recruitment advertisements will include the list of commitment incentives that are available to a physician who commits to work full-time at one of the clinics. (The commitment incentives would be limited to a maximum of two physicians coming to the township).

Commitment incentives include a signing bonus, a common incentive offered by most municipalities. The township’s proposal for this would be $100,000 paid over five years, costing $20,000 per year; as well as a relocation allowance, which is financial assistance to move to the township (a $5,000 one-time payment); benefit packages; partner/spousal career assistance (up to six months of career coaching and job placement assistance from a professional HR firm), which will cost approximately $10,000 per person for six months.

“We’re competing against virtually every other municipality in Ontario that have much larger budgets and thus, can wave a much larger flag to come their direction,” said Coun. Terry Fodey.

“I think we can hold our own with our lifestyle here.”

Now having council’s approval, staff will work with the working group to start advertising and seeking out recruitment events. A compensation assistance grant process will be developed with respect to the experiential locums and township ambassadors recruited.

Staff says that once the council for Gananoque has determined its degree of participation, adjustments to the recruitment program can be made to include the town.

(Keith Dempsey is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Brockville Recorder and Times. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.)

By Keith Dempsey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jun 26, 2023 at 17:48

This item reprinted with permission from   Recorder and Times   Brockville, Ontario

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