Key take-aways from the Rural & Northern Physician Attraction & Retention Summit

Sep 26, 2022 | Front Page, Policy

On September 21, 2022, the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce was pleased to partner with Doctors Manitoba in the delivery of a special stakeholder engagement summit, bringing together bright medical minds, and driven economic development and community leaders in our network to assess, analyze, and compile potential recommendations to address the issue of rural and Northern physician shortages.

“Health care system investment is a top priority among our members, and research shows that communities’ economic potential is supported by strong services,” said Chuck Davidson, President and CEO of the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce. “Our team was so encouraged by the level of participation and the positive, productive discussions at the Summit. Clearly, we all care deeply about access to efficient, quality care, and we know that Manitoba’s ability to recruit and retain more doctors is essential to our future growth.”

​“The chronic shortage of physicians is impacting the care Manitobans rely on,” explained Dr. Candace Bradshaw, President of Doctors Manitoba. “Every day, thousands of Manitobans are affected by a record number of ER closures, difficulty finding a family doctor, and long waits to get a test or surgery. The Summit offered hope, with many promising ideas to attract and retain more physicians from such a diverse group of partners and experts.”

Further consultations are planned over the next few weeks to validate the results with Summit participants, as well as with broader medical and economic development professionals. The goal is to refine the promising practices into a final report with recommendations to recruit and retain more physicians. The report should be available by the end of October, and our goal is to present it to the provincial government for consideration. We will also make the report available for public review. 

Very special thanks to the following presenters for their excellent stage-setting content:

  • Honourable Audrey Gordon, Manitoba Minister of Health, for sharing opening remarks and participating as a listener
  • Dr. Candace Bradshaw, President, Doctors Manitoba
  • Theresa Oswald, CEO, Doctors Manitoba for her role as vibrant MC/host facilitator for the day (pictured right)
  • Rhonda Coupland, Western District Representative, Association of Manitoba Municipalities
  • Dr. Jose Francois, Head, Family Medicine, Max Rady College of Medicine, University of Manitoba; provincial specialty lead with Shared Health
  • Dr. Nichelle Desilets, Family Physician from Neepawa and Representative for Assiniboine Medical District
  • Dr. David Cram, Manitoba Representative, Canadian Medical Association
  • Keir Johnson, Director of Strategy & Communications, Doctors Manitoba
  • Thank you also to Shyanne Mattey, Manitoba Chambers of Commerce, Membership & Events Coordinator & Maclean Boyd, Mentorship Program Coordinator, Doctors Manitoba, for a smooth, well-executed event; to Prairie Stride Centre in Portage la Prairie for a great location, and to the Portage la Prairie & District Chamber of Commerce for their support in event coordination.

Here are just some of the statistics and themes we took away from the event:

  • 90% of municipalities are struggling to recruit physicians, and 95% of them are putting forward investments to support those efforts. Municipalities are spending $1M/yr to recruit doctors, and members want to see innovative solutions to these challenges.
  • Manitoba has one of the lowest physician to population ratios across Canada.
  • We currently have 3,157 physicians in Manitoba, with  ¼ of them practicing in rural and Northern regions. According to Keir Johnson, the number of doctors has grown by about 1,000, so why do we still feel far behind? The per capita is up 19% in the last 20 years, but meanwhile, medicine has become more advanced; subspecialization; we are all living longer and chronic conditions are increasing; there are different expectations of work-life balance; and technology advancements have had an impact. Slowest growth per capita in the nation – Manitoba needs 359 more physicians to get to Canada’s per capita growth rate; family physicians are lowest in Manitoba overall; we are 7th lowest in 32 nations of OECD.
  • 40% of doctors are thinking of retiring, relocating to another province, or leaving the profession – that’s 2 out of 5. And 17-20% of doctors are over 65; 11% plan on leaving Manitoba within three years.
  • 50% of doctors say they are experiencing burnout. Even though doctors are highly resilient, they can still suffer, and the pandemic was the tipping point.
  • The Faculty of Medicine admissions department at UM has done a lot of work looking at the attributes that will indicate whether or not a potential student is likely to pursue rural practice – rural roots, rural work, rural volunteerism – and there has been a 22% increase in admissions from rural applicants.
  • The admissions team has implemented a longitudinal integrated clerkship which includes primary care in smaller communities – most of the 3rd year’s 12 months are spent in rural and northern communities, and many of them will stick.
  • 3 large buckets seem to go into determining where people will practice:
    • opportunity (what’s the job like – scope of practice) – widespread range of expertise contributes to excitement and seems to reduce burnout; size of practice – important factor because of on-call requirements which are very demanding in a small office; whether or not the physician has a clinic assistant or support professionals; access to consultant support especially if in a remote area; financial incentives (not the top component) which could also be signing bonuses and financial incentives to set up a practice; facilities (modern clinics and hospitals)
    • community – size, location proximity to other centres, availability of housing, amenities, integration to community
    • family – you’re not just recruiting the physician, but you’re also recruiting a spouse – employment for the spouse; childcare; extended family; schools; activities for children; amenities

Click here to read the original event news release.

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