By Jenna Cocullo, Local Journalism Initiative
Chatham-Kent council supported the opportunity to hire a dedicated recruitment and retention co-ordinator to focus on physician recruitment for the community.
“We are proposing that Chatham-Kent fund a part-time recruitment co-ordinator. Our rationale is based on the pressing needs for additional family physicians and the economic benefit a successful program will bring to the area,” said Denise Waddick, co-chair of the Chatham-Kent Physician Recruitment and Retention Task Force.
Waddick gave council an update on the one-time $100,000 funding for physician recruitment approved for the 2020 budget.
Currently there are 60 family physicians in Chatham-Kent, with each roster averaging 1,500 patients. Of the more than 104,000 health card holders that live in Chatham-Kent, 78,000 have a family physician and about 6,000 are enrolled into a Chatham-Kent community health centre.
“So when you do the math and you look at the formula, it looks as though there’s about just under 20,000 patients that do not have primary care. And when you base it off of the average patient roster that looks as though we need about 13 additional physicians to address our current needs,” Waddick said. “ We do not have sufficient family physician coverage to provide the Comprehensive Primary Care to its population.”
Waddick said her statistics do not include residents that are seeking care outside of Chatham-Kent that may return if a provider is located locally.
Chatham-Kent could need up to 25 new physicians in the coming years. Forty per cent of patients are currently patients of a doctor who is over the age of 60. An additional 18 would be needed to fill those roles once the physicians retire. The process to replace one doctor could take up to a year, Waddick explained.
The recruitment position will officially be set in stone once the next yearly budget is approved.
The recruitment task force was formed in January 2020 as an independent community committee, with representation from the Thamesview, Chatham-Kent and Tilbury District family health teams, the Chatham-Kent community health centers, and the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance.
Waddick said because of the pandemic, not all the planned work for the task force could be completed, resulting in the use of only $52,000 of the funds.
To date, the task force recruited two new physicians who took over existing practices and one solo family physician who was able to take on new patients.
Waddick and her team also lobbied to have Tilbury District Family Health Team designated as an underserved area which gives it the power to add more doctors to its group.
The funds are also used to pay a physician’s site visits, attend conferences, and used as a start-up subsidy for moving expenses.
“The task force also developed unique and creative strategies to mark market practice opportunities in Chatham Kent, with a stronger online presence by developing a website and a social media campaign,” Waddick said about some of the other highlights in their first year. “We established a brand, and an image for recruitment with our community.”