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County of Stettler seeks consultant’s input on dearth of doctors

County council has frank discussion on doctor recruitment
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County of Stettler

The County of Stettler wants to bring in a doctor recruitment specialist to find out what this area is doing, and perhaps more importantly isn’t doing, to attract new medical professionals. Councillors had a frank discussion about doctor recruitment at their May 8 regular meeting.

Reeve Larry Clarke asked that the subject of doctor recruitment be discussed, noting that a joint meeting with the Town of Stettler about the issue was cancelled; apparently, a doctor recruitment consultant from eastern Canada was involved with the meeting but couldn't attend.

Clarke stated he felt doctor recruitment needs to be discussed more openly and more regularly because it is a critical problem. 

“This topic has just been going on and on and on,” said the reeve.

Clarke noted that the county’s current $20,000 cash gift to new doctors who stay in Stettler for a certain amount of time may be too modest; it’s been suggested that $100,000 might be more appropriate.

In any event, Clarke noted this consultant who was unable to attend has insight into doctor recruitment practices that may help this region, with the reeve noting another meeting should be scheduled with this consultant and that key stakeholders, who make this meeting a priority, be invited to attend.

The reeve stated fewer doctors in the community, such as Stettler is experiencing, results in issues like more frequent STARS air ambulance trips, including for c-section childbirths.

The reeve further noted he and many other people are aware healthcare professionals just coming out of university are saddled with astronomical debts and can’t be blamed for going where they can earn the most money.

Coun. Dave Grover noted a doctor recently left Stettler after receiving an offer of about $380,000 elsewhere.

Councillors discussed who should be invited to listen to the consultant, with the Town of Stettler, Board of Trade and doctor recruitment committee being mentioned.

Coun. Justin Stevens suggested the Stettler region needs to set itself apart from competing communities and identify benefits to living and working here that doctors can’t find elsewhere.

Coun. Grover chipped in that the Stettler region is a great place to live and that message needs to be delivered to prospective doctors.

Coun. Les Stulberg observed that whatever the Stettler region has been doing to recruit doctors isn’t working so something has to change.

Coun. James Nibourg suggested doctors be attracted by technology, especially new, young doctors. “They want to work with...the cool tools,” said Nibourg.

Councillors also agreed they should have doctor recruitment as a regular item on their meeting agendas and hear regular updates on the topic.

The reeve reiterated that he felt the Stettler hospital is a community hospital and all community members are needed for the effort to recruit doctors.

Councillors passed a resolution to seek out the doctor recruitment consultant and plan a meeting to discuss the issue, plus instructed staff to provide regular updates on this topic.