By Jenn Watt
Published Jan. 29, 2019
Economic development and physician recruitment aren’t commonly paired in job descriptions. However, as concepts – particularly when we’re talking about the growth of Haliburton County – they are a perfect couple.
Last week, county councillors discussed whether money can and should be allocated for a new position, potentially encompassing both jobs in one.
If the dollars can be found, they would be well spent.
In recent years, Haliburton County has been finding itself with a shortage of both family doctors and emergency department physicians.
While Haliburton village is somewhat better off with its Family Health Team, its ER has been understaffed for at least a year, with Haliburton Highlands Health Services perpetually searching for a couple of doctors willing to fill the roles.
In Minden, there is one family doctor.
There is still an inflow of doctors coming to the Highlands, but they aren’t coming quickly enough to fill positions as others leave or retire.
We need more help.
At one point, the county had a recruitment committee, but as is reported in this week’s paper, that group was disbanded years ago.
Perhaps it’s time for our county to follow suit with other small- and medium-size towns and hire a recruiter.
The position doesn’t need to be blended with economic development, but it can’t hurt.
A strong roster of doctors and a strong local economy go hand in hand.
The county’s CAO Mike Rutter told councillors that the most success in recruitment had come from locums or resident doctors who came to the Highlands and decided to stay.
About a year ago, I interviewed Dr. Devon Tilbrook who took over Dr. Barbara Varty’s practice in Haliburton. She moved to the area from Toronto with her husband and children.
She said they were looking for a small town to move to, and found Haliburton through a Google search.
They arrived to find the Haliburton Art and Craft Festival underway. They were assured that there were good schools for the kids.
They enjoyed the wildlife and the team atmosphere nurtured through the medical clinic in town. They were sold.
Without the efforts of councils, businesses and volunteers over the years building up the community, fostering festivals, preserving our natural places and investing in our schools, we wouldn’t be able to attract young doctors to the area.
And without a good number of doctors, it’s hard to bring in other new families, businesses and opportunities. They go together.
Our health-care system has been stressed for many years now. For the good of our community, both economically and physically, enhancing our recruitment efforts is necessary.