Several Shuswap communities are investigating a far-flung approach to attracting a physician.
Representatives from Sicamous, Malakwa, South Shuswap and North Shuswap attended a Jan. 30 meeting to hear how Vernon-based Global Medics could help.
Founded in 2001 in London, England, Global Group now has offices in Canada, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.
The company recruits for locums, contract and permanent doctors in both primary and acute care settings.
Sicamous Medical Clinic manager Pam Beech says there are doctor shortages in many Canadian cities as well as rural areas. In terms of the Shuswap, she says Salmon Arm is the only community without a shortage of doctors.
“I really feel this is an option we do need to explore,” says Beech, noting that with the departure of Dr. Rosemary Kelsall from the clinic, women’s health issues will continue to be a high priority and will be covered without disruption until a suitable replacement can be found. “Global Medics is an option that has proven to be effective in other areas of the province and Canada.”
Beech says Global Medics has a strong connection with countries whose standards are similar to Canada’s, making it easier for doctors from those countries to qualify to work in this country.
Global Medics guides doctors through the licensing process, arranges all interviews and matches their needs to the community in question.
“I think the difference between the service in place right now for BC Health Match is the ability of a recruitment group like Global Medics to do a lot of groundwork,” says Beech. “Before they connect you to a doctor, they make sure the match is as close to being perfect as is possible.”
But, Beech notes, communities also have to take responsibility to ensure a doctor will be as happy with the match as the community is.
“I was interested in hearing things people can do to make it easier and communities need to hear this; it’s the community and what it can offer that will keep the doctors here,” says Beech of the two- to three-year commitment doctors must make to stay in the country.
In terms of cost for the service, Beech says no money changes hands until the community offers a doctor a position and it is accepted.
At that point, half the recruitment fee is transferred. The other half comes due when the doctor arrives and starts work. As well, Global Medics’ fee could be negotiated based on the number of doctors involved.
With North Shuswap, South Shuswap and Sicamous in need of doctors, a single trip with several doctors could be arranged.
Timelines vary as to when doctors would actually arrive to work but Beech says Global Medics told the group it will never be less than six months and more likely anywhere from nine months to a year – and that depends on the diligence of both sides.
“I think it’s important that all the reps that were at the meeting need to go back to communities and try to get support to consider this,” says Beech. “The money has to come from somewhere; it is an investment.”
Sicamous was well-represented at the meeting with Mayor Terry Rysz and Coun. Malcolm Makayev attending. Sicamous Chamber of Commerce executive director Michelle Wolff attended as did Janet McClean Senft, who represented the Eagle Valley Community Support Society.
Also in attendance was Columbia Shuswap Regional District South Shuswap director Paul Demenok, who has some concerns about the doctors’ limited time commitment to the host community.
“The physician will come for two or three years and is then free to leave,” he says, noting the doctors have to have jobs in order to gain entry to the country. “When I asked for statistics, (about length of stay) he was unable to provide them. But he did suggest most will stay.”
Demenok says he has mixed feelings about the Global Medics service and would like to reflect on and discuss it further.
North Shuswap Health Centre Society co-chairperson Pat Roberston was more enthusiastic.
The society has long been working to attract a doctor through Interior Health and telemedicine and looking at international recruiters.
She was pleased with Global Medics’ presentation and says company rep Phil Martin was enthusiastic about finding a doctor for the North Shuswap clinic.
“It has been such a hard push in an unfamiliar environment for the North Shuswap Health Centre Physician Recruitment Team that it was very encouraging to hear something so positive,” Robertson says. “We do not have stars in our eyes yet, but we are considering going with this international recruiter – we have nothing to lose, but we will need approval at our board meeting next week.”