The Demand for Doctors
What One Task Force is Doing to Bring Medical Professionals to Brantford.
Celeste Percy-Beauregard, November 14, 2022 // Brantford, OntarioJohn Bradford and Lebené Numekevor are on the hunt for Brantford physicians. Photo credit Geoff Fitzgerald.
Anyone looking for a family doctor at the moment knows it’s rough out there. The good news is Brantford has a Family Physician Recruitment and Retention Task Force, developed over 20 years ago as a joint initiative by the Brant Community Healthcare System and the City of Brantford, who are actively working to bring more exceptional doctors to the community.
BTOWN sat down with Lebené Numekevor, the Director of Medical Affairs for the Brant Community Healthcare System (BCHS), and John Bradford, current Chair of Brantford Family Physician Recruitment and Retention Task Force, to learn about what it takes to bring doctors to Brantford.
Reporting to both the BCHS and the Task Force, Lebené is responsible for finding physicians for both. It may come as a surprise to learn that the hospital hires family physicians too in a range of hospital-based roles. This includes a Hospitalist (providing care to hospital in-patents), and Surgical Assist (assisting surgeons with surgical procedures). Some, like Family Practice Anesthesiologists (FPAs – family physicians with additional competency in anesthesia, certified to manage anesthesia in routine procedures for low-risk patients), can also be hired to work in the emergency department. A number of family physicians with additional training in emergency care (+1 in Emergency Medicine or Supplemental Emergency Medicine Experience (SEME) training) or sufficient emergency experience, are also hired to work in the Brantford General Hospital emergency department.
If this recruitment model sounds unusual, it’s because it is. Many municipalities do not pay for family physician recruitment, but generally hospitals do. Knowing this, the Task Force struck a deal with the hospital, to contribute costs towards their recruiter, who could do double-duty. “It's a win-win package,” John says, “Because we can afford to invest from our dollars to help Lebené [with both of these roles].”
"Many municipalities do not pay for family physician recruitment, but generally hospitals do."
The result has been mutually beneficial for the hospital and the city. From October 2020-October 2021, the Task Force recruited ten family physicians – five hospitalists and five primary care physicians in the community.
A good percentage of recruits come from the Grand Erie Six Nations Clinical Education Campus (GE6NCEC) Family Physician Residency program. Through a relationship with McMaster University, the Brantford General Hospital is the home of the GE6NCEC as a Mac-CARE site and home to the Family Medicine Residency program. The two-year program brings 12 students, six first-years and six second-years, to the hospital for clinical learning in addition to their various rotations around the hospital. “So this is where they get the majority of their teaching experience,” Lebené says, “Which also benefits us, because we found for every year of graduates, about 60 per cent tend to stay in the area.” The challenge is, “Most people that do stay, tend to gravitate towards Hospitalist and/or Emergency Medicine [due in part to the excellent Hospitalist program at the hospital] so we don't get a lot of people that go into an actual family practice.”
There is the potential to build on this program, however a barrier is that residents need family physicians in the community willing to take them on in a teaching capacity. Another challenge is the overall number of physicians being trained. “The province determines in the university environment how many positions they will allow for medical learners,” John explains.
And where years ago, physicians were happy to pick a spot immediately out of school to settle down and open their practice, Lebené finds that new graduates prefer to locum, which refers to providing temporary or interim coverage for another doctor who is taking a vacation or going on a parental leave, for instance. “They want to try things out for a year, two years, they don't really want to settle down and make that final choice until they've had time to really see what's out there,” she says.
John, Chair of Brantford Family Physician Recruitment and Retention Task Force, and Lebené, Director of Medical Affairs for the Brant Community Healthcare System. Photo credit Geoff Fitzgerald.
For Lebené, part of her job is matching a physician with their desired work scenario, while also meeting the needs of the community – in the case of Brantford at the moment, there are additional opportunities for family physicians who specialize in geriatrics or addictions.
Many of the physicians recruited to the city live in near-by communities, like Hamilton, Ancaster and Burlington, because as Lebené explains, some family physicians in smaller communities prefer not to run into their patients at the grocery store. “So having that flexibility where they can still live close enough and have only a 30-minute commute is definitely a plus as well.”
Some relocate from other provinces, “Most recently I had a physician who was actually internationally trained and then went to B.C., and practiced there for a bit until she got her licensure in Ontario. And then she moved to Paris and was looking for opportunities in Brantford so she recently started working in a practice here,” Lebené says. Others are coming from further afield, like the couple who were educated in Russia and as a result of the Task Force, found their way to Brantford.
“I've had three or four physicians reach out to me this year alone, who are looking to relocate to Canada from the U.K.,” Lebené says, “The work-life balance for family physicians in the U.K. is a challenge and from everyone they've spoken to that works here in Canada, it's a much better lifestyle for them. And so they're trying to come over here, which is great for us.” One barrier to this is the licensure process in Ontario that can be challenging for internationally trained physicians looking to relocate.
"Others are coming from further afield, like the couple who were educated in Russia and as a result of the Task Force, found their way to Brantford."
Other places Lebené scouts for recruits are at trade shows and recruitment fairs for the medical community. While she’s found LinkedIn hasn’t yielded many options, interestingly, Facebook has. “They have specific groups like ‘Canadian Family Physician Opportunities,’ as well as Ontario-specific groups,” Lebené says, “We recently recruited a Surgical Assist to the area who was looking for opportunities through there.”
As the city continues to grow, so do the opportunities. “A good example is that the Brantford General Hospital is the District Stroke Centre for the Brant, Haldimand and Norfolk geographical region and the doctors are a rotation of Hospitalists,” factors that John says, “Bring more facilities, more opportunities, and it benefits the residents of the City of Brantford. It's a win-win-win.”
For more information about the Family Physician Recruitment and Retention Task Force, visit their website HERE.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Celeste Percy-Beauregard’s first form of storytelling was as an actor, and her eager curiosity and interest in a variety of subjects led her to writing. Her work has appeared in Toronto Star and Today’s Parent, and she is enjoying exploring Brantford and learning about the people and places that make it such a special city.
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER
Geoff Fitzgerald is an award-winning freelance photographer, second season beekeeper, passionate pet dad to an Olde English Bulldogge, two cats and two rats. With an incredible drive and desire for compelling stories and intimate portraits he focuses his skills mainly on the editorial and advertising/commercial world of photography.