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Brantford council looking to solve physician shortage

City of BrantfordBrantford council looking to solve physician shortage

City of Brantford Council unanimously voted in favour to refer a report of the City’s 2024 Family Physician Recruitment plan to the Joint City-County Shared Services Committee during the Committee of the Whole – Planning and Administration meeting on Tuesday, November 15, 2023.

With an estimated one-in-four (4.4 million) Ontarians expected to be without a family physician by 2026, the Family Physician Taskforce has been hard at work trying to help the situation.

The Community Physician Recruitment Task Force was formed in 2001 to identify issues and make recommendations to assist in the recruitment of family physicians to the city.

Since 2002, the City has supported the Community Physician Recruitment program with annual funds to help offset recruitment costs.

The initial annual budget in 2002 was $51,000 but was increased to $110,000 in 2009. Despite inflation and changes to the healthcare system and the community, it has not increased since.

According to the report, the committee is now proposing a 2024 budget of $200,000, noting that funding is projected to increase to $245,000 in 2025.

Delegation Lebené Numekevor, Director of Medical Affairs, said that while the committee has recruited 12 physicians to date in 2023, the community and the country are currently in “a physician recruitment crisis.”

“For our area specifically, I can say that prior to 2023, we would lose on average one to two family physicians from the area per year. This year alone, we’ve actually lost five family physicians who have already left either because of retiring, or moving to other areas to practice as well, or going to other work to do hospitalist work,” said Numekevor. “In addition to those five who have already left, I have an additional four who have already reached out to me who are looking to retire in the next one to two years.”

She said the task force already has a total of 233 leads, and have been targeting the recruitment of family physicians from the United States.

“Very recently, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) has updated the requirements to allow for family physicians and other physicians who have trained and are board certified in the States, to obtain their CPSO licensure,” she said. “That has allowed us to more easily recruit physicians from the United States, as well as really support us in the repatriation of Canadians who are actually going to the States to study and want to come home to their communities when they’re finished their training.”

As part of this strategy, the committee has also gained access to candidate databases and sent out email blasts to over 4,000 family medicine residents in Canada and the US.

It’s also engaged in both in-person and virtual events, and continues to build relationships with other locals organizations such as the Grand Erie Six Nations Clinical Education Campus (GE6NCEC) Family Medicine Program, Brantford/Brant/Norfolk Primary Care Council and Ontario Health Teams (OHT) Region partners, as well as the South Ontario Physician Recruitment Alliance.

Numekevor said that the taskforce has estimated that the city of Brantford is lacking between 14 to 16 family physicians that are needed to properly serve the community.

“Part of the biggest issue is the fact that we are currently not training enough physicians to keep up with the aging population. An attempt has been made to increase the number of family medicine spots, but this has actually only resulted in more spots being left unfilled,” she said. “Previously, the number of residency spots left unfilled for family medicine was at six per cent in 2014, and in 2023 that number increased all the way to 20 per cent. In addition to that for every ten family medicine residents that graduate, only two of them are likely to go to family practice in some capacity, whether that is locums or full-time family practice.”

She said that as a result of all of this, they need to make drastic changes to properly serve the community.

“We need to change the way that we recruit and retain family physicians in the area ,with an increased focus on supporting our current physicians as well as providing support for new positions moving to the area,” said Numekevor. “As a result, our budget as of this year is significantly higher than the budget asset we’ve had for the last ten years.”

The $200,000 budget will be used to cover a host of different areas such as advertising, promotion and marketing material, recruitment tours, events and conferences, recruitment support, physician retention activities, international recruitment partnership and salary portions.

“We need to look to see what actually makes sense for our area and how we can actually support people to not only come to the area, but actually want to stay in the community and service our patients and our population,” she said.

Councillor Rose Sicoli asked Numekevor if it was just the city that is short of the estimated 14 to 16 physicians, or if that included the county as well.

Numekevor said that the numbers were just for Brantford and while she was unsure of how many the county needed, its needs are also great.

Councillor Richard Carpenter noted that the needs of Doctors in 2023, are different than those 20 years ago. He asked if there was a way to help the Health team model with pharmacies.

“I think the best thing that we can do is really create more opportunities for physicians to basically just be able to come in and practice. They don’t want to have to worry about the whole idea of running the overall business,” responded Numekevor. “It’s really daunting for a new grad as they’re finishing school and they now have to figure out ‘how do I essentially set up a business where I have to figure out rent, utilities, hire staff and do all those things for both the overhead, as well as doing my actual practice.’ So if we are able to create more opportunities with established teams and where there’s pharmacies already set up, then they can kind of almost plug and play and just come to work every day, that will be something that I think can help.”

Councillor Dan McCreary was supporting of getting the additional funding and said he can’t think of “anything that’s more important to a family other than a roof over your head, to have somebody you can see when you’re sick.”

Sicoli noted that the world of recruiting has changed and that she was supportive of funding this, but suggested the report be referred to the Joint City-County Shared Services Committee.

“I just don’t think under our current model that we can be competitive with other communities in our recruitment practices, so I’m fully supportive of funding this,” she said. “But I do think that there’s some value in having discussions, or more discussions with the county on this. During our most recent Joint Services Committee with the county, we did add physician recruitment as a priority for both communities in order to work together to hopefully fund, and be able to be competitive for both our communities.”

Some councillors inquired with Brian Hutchings, CAO of Brantford, if referring the item would set them back, but he ensure them that timing works out.

“It actually takes a ‘to do’ off our errands list,” he said. “…It actually works out very efficiently for us.”

The vote to refer the report to the Joint City-County Shared Services Committee was approved on a vote for 10-0

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