The County is looking for ways to improve its physician recruitment program after finding some success in 2020.
Council reviewed the program Dec. 16, about a year-and-a-half since it came into being. The initiative led by recruiter, Cheryl Kennedy, saw dividends this year, with two new emergency department doctors joining Haliburton Highlands Health Services (HHHS).
But a staff report identified several gaps in the existing program – from housing to moving expenses, to the need for a better memorandum of understanding for the roles and responsibilities between the County, HHHS and the Haliburton Highlands Family Health Team.
“This program is really finding its feet now and is seeing some good success,” Coun. Carol Moffatt said. “We need to be honest and admit there’s been challenges and frustrations with the various parties … If we can really, clearly lay out who does what (and) when, so that everyone knows what their responsibility is for this program, it should smooth things out a little bit.”
Other proposed changes are expanding the recruitment efforts to include nurse practitioners and rural generalists, providing moving expenses and aiding in recruitment at out-of-County clinics if they service a significant number of County residents.
CAO Mike Rutter said a major hurdle is the lack of housing. Rutter said staff investigated purchasing a temporary residence for potential recruits but found renting to be more cost-effective, estimated at under $10,000 annually. He said staff would bring options to council in the first quarter of 2021.
“It makes sense to pursue this because it’s a constant struggle to find places. There aren’t quality places for those short-terms that come up,” Coun. Andrea Roberts said.
The report also proposes a media event for when a new physician signs a return of service agreement – a guarantee for them to work in the County for a certain number of years, which has a $25,000-per-year financial incentive.
“It’s an opportunity to celebrate the success,” Rutter said. “But also, a story, for the community to get to know new physicians that are relocating here.”
Council voted to receive the report and direct staff to incorporate changes to program documents.
“You’ve had some success and we’re fortunate to have you working for us,” Warden Liz Danielsen told Kennedy.