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Huntsville Council approves the creation of a physician recruitment program
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Huntsville Council approves the creation of a physician recruitment program

Posted: 2024-03-28 07:15:08 By: thebay

Huntsville Council approved creation of a physician recruitment program, in the March 25, 2024, meeting.

The goal is to create a program with incentives that will attract physicians to the Town.

Councillors, Scott Morrison, and Bob Stone will lead a taskforce that will include working with staff to investigate options for financial and other incentives for recruiting and retention.

According to Stone, there are currently 3200 residents with unattached primary care in the Town, and with three physicians expected to retire over the next six months it will add another 3400, for a total of 6600. He said, “That’s over 30% of our population.”

Morrison expressed excitement about creating the program, especially considering his 77-year-old mother is without a doctor.

He added, “Having a roof over your head and having food security are probably the two most important things. I think pretty close to that is having a family doctor.”

His investigation into other municipalities found that most offer financial incentives to attract physicians. For instance, Wasaga Beach, Quinte West, and Welland offer doctors $100,000 to reside in their communities. Hastings offers $150,000, and Kingston allocates $250,000 annually for recruitment programs.

He indicated that other incentives, such as physicians feeling embraced by the community, are also key for them to want to stay. He said, “Picture a big community hug around a doctor… It’s kind of like a free agent athlete. They can go to any team and get some money, but why would they choose your team over a different team?”

He also expressed the importance of having a “significant program.” He said, “It could have an impact on our community for the next 50 to 60 years.”

Morrison has spoken with several businesses that indicated they would be on board with offering free incentives.

Council discussed other incentive ideas such as free gym, golf or park passes. This and more will be considered upon creating the program.

Councillor, Jason FitzGerald, expressed the importance of retention. He indicated that the Northern Ontario School of Medicine advised that there is a risk of physicians leaving after the time they committed to is up.

He indicated that this is why it’s important to consider those already native to the Town, “Your greatest resource is the people that are already here. So, how do we not alienate the people that are already here, so they want to be here and want to stay here.”

Councillor, Helena Renwick, inquired about where the money come from if they use financial incentives, and emphasized the importance of considering the housing shortage issue. She said, “Doctors don’t stay because we don’t have the housing.”

Stone advised that they are considering the MAT (Municipal Accommodation Tax) fund and there is interest from an organization to contribute.

Regarding housing, Morrison advised that this is an issue they are considering. He added that according to feedback he received doctors are hesitant to relocate “because the cost now of living in the city is not that much different than the cost of living here.”

He indicated that a financial incentive could help with this “so they can afford a downpayment on a home.” 

Councillor, Cory Clarke, expressed the importance and potential of the initiative. He said, “25-30 years ago Huntsville had a recruitment committee, and some doctors were recruited through it. So, it was a success and can happen again this time.”

Deputy Mayor, Dan Armour, indicated that having experience in the healthcare industry it’s essential to understand the importance of good healthcare, which not only impacts people’s health but “you lessen the load on the hospitals.”

Morrison and Stone will work with staff to investigate options regarding potential incentives for the recruitment program and report back to Council.