In 2008, the RPAP and Alberta Chambers of Commerce selected the Town of Redwater as the second recipient of the Alberta Rural Community Recruitment and Retention Award.
Recognized for their community involvement approach, proven track record of successful recruitment, and willingness to share their experiences with other communities, it was attention to details above all else that made this community successful in retaining the three full-time and one half-time doctors who had been recruited.
A Doctor Recruitment Committee in the Town of Redwater worked for almost 12 years to recruit qualified physicians and then to make these professionals and their families feel at home in their community. The community also worked actively to smooth the transition process for physicians coming from South Africa to rural Alberta. Part of the recruitment process involved flying physicians over from South Africa for a visit and providing them with a driver for the duration of their stay.
In addition to providing any information the doctors require, the committee introduced visitors to established doctors, healthcare centre staff and the Municipal Council. Meetings with the College of Physicians and Surgeons were also arranged, and tours of schools, medical facilities and the Town were provided.
Once the physician has been recruited, items such as office space, housing, vehicles and wages were included by the committee within contract negotiations. The Town bought a house and provided six months of free rent for newly-arrived physicians. Interim furnishings were provided for home and office: flowers in the home for the spouse, toys for the children and groceries in the pantry.
A “Doctors’ Appreciation Day” was inaugurated as an annual event, providing an open expression of appreciation, the sharing of foods from the South African and the Town’s Ukrainian heritages, and time to spend quality “neighbour time” together.
“Retaining our doctors is the hardest part of the process, but attention to little details has made our retentions successful,” said Connie Butcher, Mayor of Redwater at the time.
The award was presented in Fort Saskatchewan 24 May at the Alberta Chambers of Commerce Annual General Meeting.