Recruitment effort paying dividends

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health stethoscope

Chatham-Kent has a pair of new doctors, and one of them is taking new patients.

Drs. Glen and Briana Providence came to the municipality in December.

He is a hospitalist with the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance and she is a family practitioner, setting up shop with the Chatham-Kent Family Health Team in Dresden.

Briana is accepting patients through Healthcare connect at 1-800-445-1822.

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Originally from the Toronto area, the Providences went to Saba University Medical School in the Caribbean before moving to Ohio to complete their residency training and then to Pennsylvania to begin practising.

They moved to Chatham-Kent for family reasons.

“It is important for us to be close to our family. We have friends who live in the Chatham-Kent area who practice medicine and we decided to explore the opportunities,” Briana said in a media release. “After several site visits and much discussion, my husband and I decided it was a great fit for our medical practice and our young family.”

Fannie Vavoulis, who heads up physician recruitment in C-K, said with the Providences, everything fell into place.

“They had a local connection here. A friend, and that friend’s father, practise (medicine) here,” she said. “They did their homework and were looking for a smaller community. They have two young children. We always say this is a great place to raise a family. We have all the amenities.”

Another bonus in the case of the Providences is that both husband and wife are doctors with work readily available for them.

“Sometimes our biggest hurdle with physician recruitment is making sure the spouse or partner has adequate employment,” Vavoulis said.

Vavoulis said the recruitment effort has really paid off in recent years.

“From a family physician perspective, we are probably in a better state than we were a number of years ago. But we don’t know how many orphaned patients (those without family doctors) there are in Chatham-Kent. The ministry (of health) doesn’t share those numbers,” she said.

Vavoulis said there are still openings and needs for family practitioners, particularly in Ridgetown with the Family Health Team.

The Chatham-Kent Health Alliance is also still actively recruiting doctors for the emergency departments, internal medicine, and other specialty areas, she added.

Vavoulis said there are several departments at the CKHA that have a full compliment of doctors, such as anesthesiology and pediatrics.

“We’re definitely in a good predicament. Our focus now is the ER and making sure everyone has a family doctor,” she said.

Getting doctors here is one matter. Keeping them is another. Vavoulis said the alliance has been pretty successful with both.

“We’ve been fortunate on the retention side as well. There’s still work to be done,” she said. “The physicians are here, but it doesn’t mean they will be here forever. We want to make sure it (doctors leaving C-K) doesn’t happen.”

Vavoulis said the recruitment effort also looks long term, as it plans around future retirements to help minimize the chances of a doctor retiring, leaving his or her patients without a replacement family physician.

She believes the increase in enrolment at medical schools has helped fill the void here in Chatham-Kent, and elsewhere. The family medicine residency program from the University of Western Ontario also helps the CKHA bring in young doctors, as they complete their residencies here, with some opting to stay on after they graduate med school.

“But it’s not the time to celebrate our successes. We need to now focus on the five-to-seven-year plan to make sure we don’t get back into that shortage situation,” she said. “There will always be a need for recruitment. There will always be a need for physicians.”

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