AMHERST, N.S. – A community effort to attract physicians and specialists to the Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre is beginning to see success.
The effort, a partnership among Amherst, Oxford and Cumberland County as well as medical staff and the Nova Scotia Health Authority, has seen the recruitment of several physicians and specialists – some of whom have already started work at the Amherst hospital.
“We’re making significant progress and it’s excited to see some of the successes we’ve had,” Dr. Janneke Gradstein told the Amherst News. “I think it’s a case of success breeding success and it was because of the work of many. Some of the physicians coming are ones we attracted throughout recruitment, but others heard about what it’s like to work in Amherst.”
Dr. Gradstein said two physician/specialists have already started work at the regional hospital while three others have confirmed they are coming to the hospital and a fourth is setting up a family practice in Springhill.
Gradstein said everyone working together has been crucial in the recruiting effort that saw representatives attend medical fairs in Digby and Toronto and make connections with numerous physicians and specialists.
“It was a lot of work getting those recruitment efforts in place, putting the committee in place and organizing the physicians when the potential recruits came to the area,” she said. “There were a lot of little pieces that had to work together and once we got them in motion we started to see some success.”
She is optimistic the work that’s been done has already lifted the morale of the health-care community, but she said there is still a lot of work to be done. She said there is still work to be done in places like Parrsboro and Pugwash as well as in psychiatry, obstetrics and anesthesiology.
“We have to keep working together,” she said. “Our physician community is growing old and there will be retirements coming soon. The good news is it looks as though Amherst is very recruitable. It’s easy to get people who want to work here, we just have to make them aware of it.”
Gradstein said the join efforts have already gained attention provincially and other communities have taken notice of the Cumberland County partnership. The veteran physician said she has spoken to Health Minister Randy Delorey and Premier Stephen McNeil about the process and is hoping other areas will follow the Amherst example.
“The model has been followed across the province,” she said, “especially the partnership that developed between the municipalities, the political leaders and medical community.”
Amherst Mayor David Kogon, a retired obstetrician-gynecologist himself, said he’s not surprised with the success. He said the group didn’t have any set expectations, other than the belief that a combined effort would be the most effective way to proceed.
“We’re thrilled with the results,” the mayor said. “I don’t think surprise is the right word, but I can definitely say we exceeded expectations.”
Kogon said the recruiting committee did a great job showing off Amherst and Cumberland County as a place to practice medicine and a place to live and raise a family. He would like to see the committee continue into 2019 and he expects it to be represented at the provincial recruiting event, but he doesn’t know if the national conference is doable because of the cost associated.
“Maybe in two or three years, but probably not next year,” Kogon said.
He thinks the focus will be more on specialties moving forward.
Kogon said he would like to see the province to come to the table with some financial support for local recruiting efforts. Amherst footed $10,000 for the committee this time, while Oxford also provided some funding. Cumberland County provided no funding, but had a representatitve on the committee.
“Beyond what is spent at the provincial level, there has to be some money available to local communities to push their community,” Kogon said. “I’ve sent a letter to Minister Delorey explaining that point. Amherst agreed to put in $10,000 because it was so urgent and had to be done, but health care is not a municipal issue, it’s a provincial one. While we’re willing to put the time and effort into recruiting, it’s not our responsibility to spend municipal dollars.”