FORT FRANCES—In a continuing effort to recruit new doctors to practice in Fort Frances, two members of the local Physician Recruitment and Retention Committee toured eastern Ontario back on Sept. 21-25 as part of the Health Professionals Recruitment Tour.
Marlis Bruyere, administrator of the Fort Frances Community Clinic, and Maureen Gartshore, chair of the Fort Frances Recruitment and Retention Committee and business manager of the Nelson Medicine Professional Corp., made stops in Ottawa, Kingston, London, Hamilton, and Toronto to promote Fort Frances as a favourable place for new physicians and allied health-care workers to live and work.
“In general, the 2008 tour was similar to previous years, with over 80 communities designated as ‘underserviced’ represented as well as ministry and medical agency representation,” noted Gartshore.
“I spoke to more family practice residents this year than in past, which is significant as these residents will be beginning their practices in the next few years and are considering opportunities available to them.
“Many have requested more detailed information about the practice and lifestyle opportunities in Fort Frances, including the ability to provide locum services as a way to get to know our community,” Gartshore added, noting the overall best attended site was at the University of Western Ontario in London, “where we had the pleasure of meeting many residents and medical students at various points in their education.”
“I really found the tour enjoyable and a wonderful opportunity to recruit potential physicians,” said Bruyere, who went on the tour for her first time.
She added they spent “amazingly long hours” working and travelling each day of the tour, but hopes that hard work will pay off.
“We definitely had some positive leads on doctors, however, if they went on to another booth and signed on there, we would lose them,” explained Bruyere. “The key to success will be quick follow-up with those that were interested.”
At every site, the local reps answered three specific questions:
•Where is Fort Frances?
“The specific location of Fort Frances is easily revealed by use of an excellent map of Ontario that highlights Fort Frances’ location and the location of all six Ontario medical schools. We are able to say: ‘You are here today, and you want to be here tomorrow [pointing to Fort Frances],’” said Gartshore.
•What are you recruiting for?
This year, four family physicians and one GP anaesthetist.
•What can Fort Frances offer?
“A rewarding practice, a relaxing lifestyle, and the details of our return of service agreements involving financial and lifestyle incentives,” said Gartshore.
“The return of service agreement was something many students and residents were interested in,” echoed Bruyere.
Gartshore said a major part of the tour for her is to meet, make contact, and track potential physician candidates as they progress through medical school and their residency programs. This is done annually through this specific tour, as well as later this fall at the Thunder Bay and Sudbury campuses of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine.
“We encourage students and residents to complete an elective in Fort Frances working side-by-side with a family physician to experience the rewards of family practice in a northern community and participate in community activities, sports etc. . . . enjoying all Fort Frances has to offer,” she added.
As mentioned, Gartshore and Bruyere specifically were looking to recruit four family physicians and one GP anaesthetist.
“However, we did speak to many medical students and other allied health-care professionals and students, many of whom expressed interest in practice opportunities in Fort Frances,” noted Gartshore. “For example, we have returned with names of physiotherapists and occupational therapists who have requested their names be kept on file at Riverside should a position become available.
“I keep an active database of medical students and residents for physician recruitment use, and pass on the information collected on other health professionals to the appropriate entities for their future use.
“It is possible that as the Family Health Team programs grow, Marlis may be recruiting in the future for allied health professionals for employment with the Family Health Team,” she added.
Gartshore said there’s many good reasons to practice in Fort Frances, and she and Bruyere were sure to explain those to prospective recruits.
One is that Nelson Medicine Professional Corp.–the physician group in the Fort Frances Community Clinic—provides primary care in a Family Health Network model.
“This model allows us to offer income stabilization to the new graduate in their first year of practice. The group also provides physicians with an Electronic Medical Record (EMR) with Internet accessibility, which is a required item on a new physician’s ‘shopping list’ when looking for a place to practice,” said Gartshore.
“It was also very positive to inform new physicians that the physician group also included two general surgeons and one obstetrician/gynaecologist providing specialist support to the family practice physicians.”
The pair also informed new recruits that the Fort Frances physician group joins with the Fort Frances Family Health Team (FHT), providing team-approach health care for patients. The FHT currently employs two nurse practitioners, a chronic disease management program manager, and a health systems navigator.
Bruyere noted “the collaborative model of care . . . is appealing to many students and residents as this is the model they are being trained in.”
“In addition to this affiliation, we also promoted our affiliation with the Northern Ontario School of Medicine [NOSM], including both the medical students and the residency program, and stressed to the southern Ontario students and residents that electives in our community were facilitated through NOSM,” remarked Gartshore.
“We made it clear that although we host NOSM students approximately nine months per year, we still welcome students and residents from all Ontario medical schools,” she stressed.
Gartshore also said it was “very pleasurable to be able to showcase our local hospital with its newly-refurbished interior, state-of-the-art operating room and emergency department equipment, including the latest asset—a new CT scanner put in use in August, 2008.”
She noted “the community was instrumental in fundraising and ensuring the CT scanner project came to fruition as it has been for many other projects in the past. It is clear to these new physicians that Fort Frances is committed to providing their physicians and allied health-care providers with the facilities and equipment to provide optimum health care delivery.”
“We also were asked a lot of questions about employment opportunities for spouses. This was an important thing for married applicants,” said Bruyere.
They also promoted Fort Frances as a place of natural beauty, that is a safe and stable community of sufficient size to have the amenities of a larger community, such a new high school, auditorium, and the ability for children to receive an excellent education, said Gartshore, adding “being a border town was positively received by the southern Ontario crowd.”
Gartshore said that as chair of the Fort Frances Recruitment and Retention Committee, she stressed the other half of their mandate is retention—and is equally as important as recruitment.
“It is paramount we, as a community, ensure our current physicians and new candidates are respected and appreciated for their ongoing commitment to provide the best medical care to the citizens of Fort Frances and the surrounding district,” she remarked.
“This will result in our physicians choosing to remain in Fort Frances long after their return of service agreements have expired.
“Currently, our physicians are extremely understaffed and are working very hard to meet the needs of their patients in the clinics; in the hospital, including inpatient care, assisting in the operating room, providing anaesthetic services, providing emergency room coverage, providing obstetrical coverage, chemotherapy supervision, and renal dialysis supervision to name a few; and providing services at Rainycrest and the jail.
“In addition, they continue to provide an excellent learning environment for our two NOSM third-year medical students and a family practice resident with the belief that they are investing in Fort Frances’ future medical community,” added Gartshore.
“I encourage the public to take time to say thank you to their physician, knowing that he or she has chosen to stay in Fort Frances and provide excellent health care.”
The Health Professionals Recruitment Tour is co-ordinated by the Professional Association of Internes and Residents (PAIRO), in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care and the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines.
Since 1993, PAIRO has been actively advocating for effective ways to attract new doctors to underserviced areas.
(Fort Frances Times)