GUYSBOROUGH: Following a successful incentive program two-years-ago that saw vacant nursing positions being filled, the Municipality of the District of Guysborough (MODG) is stepping forward again, this time to help address the serious gap in doctor coverage in their communities.
The MODG announced on April 7, a $100,000.00 financial incentive for each new recruited doctor who is willing to sign a five-year return to service contract to be a full-time practitioner at one of or both of their two hospitals, Guysborough Memorial Hospital and Eastern Memorial Hospital.
“It is not based on science,” Barry Carrol, the municipality’s CAO told The Reporter. “We wanted to make an impact and thought it was important to cover the $100,000.”
Carrol indicated that while they had tremendous success with the nursing incentive program, recruiting doctors has been challenging, so they needed to do something to help tip the playing field in their direction.
“Time will tell how effective it will be but we’re very hopeful,” he said. “Our council are very forward thinking and this is an example of that.”
Warden Vernon Pitts indicated when they were recruiting nurses the incentive was $10,000; with the doctors, the return to service contract would be $100,000 over five-years, amounting to $20,000 per year.
Having doctors commit to a five-year window, he said would allow them to see all the fantastic people, what their residents and the municipality has to offer, along with finding out what’s special about each community.
“You know this is not a throwing stuff against the wall to see what’s going to stick,” Pitts said. “You have to be creative, our council over the years, numerous times, if it’s necessary, we step outside of the box, and that boils down to creativity, and to think on your own sometimes.”
According to the media release, the municipality intends to funnel its financial commitment through the local hospital foundations as they continue to work with the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) to recruit doctors to fully staff both of their hospitals with full-time doctors.
“I don’t think the foundation should be paying for that, that’s a service; that’s not a piece of equipment,” Pitts said. “I have no problem with the foundation paying for an x-ray machine or a special piece of equipment, but I don’t think they should be paying for initial services.”
He suggested it should be their provincial and federal tax dollars that should be paying the new recruited doctor’s incentive.
A key theme through the municipality’s strategic plan is sustainability, and one of the integral components of being a sustainable rural municipality, is the provision of top- quality healthcare services.
“As a council, we have to work with our partners and do everything in our power to recruit doctors to our municipality,” Pitts said. “Healthcare is not normally a municipal responsibility but the doctor shortage in our municipality is a reality that we must face, and one that we have to tackle head on.”
At the Guysborough Memorial Hospital, the municipality has one full-time doctor out of four, and at Canso Memorial Hospital, they have a relatively stable situation with long term locum physicians but no full-time permanent positions.
“We’re recruiting for two hospitals, hopefully this incentive going forward, for the lack of a better term, it’s a carrot on the end of a stick, but hey, we have to do something,” Pitts said. “We met with the province numerous times, and they’ve stated this is a priority of theirs getting positions for the Guysborough area, but they’re not having a lot of success, so we have to take matters into our own hands.”