Docs offered cash to recruit

Elgin County, St. Thomas will pay family physicians about $33,000 per doctor they draw.

By JOHN MINER, SUN MEDIA

In the fierce competition for medical staff, Elgin County and St. Thomas are turning to their family physicians with an offer of $33,000 for every new doctor they bring to town.

The city, county and the St. Thomas Elgin Home Builder’s Association are putting up a total of $105,000 for the pilot project, that has a goal of landing three new doctors.

But the local doctor shortage is greater than that, said St. Thomas city clerk Wendell Graves.

“Fourteen family physicians are required to meet immediate needs,” he said.

Graves said the Health Recruitment Partnership, a group formed last year that includes the three pilot sponsors and the St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital, looked at different ways to recruit doctors, including hiring a doctor recruiter.

It settled on the $33,333 plan for this year. The money will be an interest-free, forgivable loan for the recruiting doctor, for each new physician they attract, up to a maximum of three physicians.

If the recruitment fails, the money is to be returned.

Details, such as how long a recruited doctor would be expected to practise in St. Thomas and Elgin, are still being worked out, Graves said.

John Bod of the home builder’s association said his group was pleased to be involved because the doctor shortage is a concern for many prospective home buyers moving into the area.

Other Ontario communities are offering incentive packages to lure doctors that are paid to the prospective physician, including paying off student loans, moving expenses, golf club memberships, landscaping packages, free Christmas trees and internet access.

Some community recruitment committees will also help the physician’s spouse to find a job.

In Geraldton, northeast of Thunder Bay, new doctors are being offered a salary ranging from $330,000 to $400,000 a year.

London hired a physician recruiter in 2005 to bolster its efforts and hired six doctors with an incentive program that paid the recruits as much as $20,000 to practise in the city.

Chatham-Kent has had an aggressive recruitment campaign that’s managed to attract 33 physicians, a combination of family doctors and specialists, over the past five years.

But it needs another 33 family doctors, said physician recruiter Laurie Nash.

“Our recruitment efforts continue on a daily basis,” she said.

Incentives are offered, but there’s no set amount, Nash said.

“It could be moving expenses, it could be education debt reduction, it could be practice startup costs, the tangible types of things they have to deal with when they are going to set up a practice in this community.”

The hospital also offers staff, not just doctors, a bonus for helping to fill vacancies.

“When you are talking about recruitment, one of the best ways is through networking. It is that personal touch,” Nash said.
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