An east-central Alberta committee that focused on their collective strengths to address a healthcare crunch was the recipient of the 2013 Alberta Rural Community Attraction and Retention Award.
The Flagstaff Community Medical Recruitment and Retention Committee—representing Flagstaff County and the towns of Daysland, Killam and Hardisty— was recognized by RPAP and the Alberta Chambers of Commerce for its balanced approach to attracting physicians in adjacent communities while supporting those already practicing in the area.
“The committee successfully engaged physicians and the community, meeting regularly and working together to welcome new physicians, and to assist and appreciate those who continue to practice in the community,” said Bernard Anderson, executive director, Health Workforce Policy and Planning, Alberta Health, and the Alberta Health representative to the Alberta Rural Physician Action Plan Board.
When the loss of physicians threatened the only healthcare facility in Daysland – the only full-service healthcare facility in the region—the Flagstaff Community Medical Recruitment & Retention Committee was created to ensure long term viability of recruitment and retention of medical professionals in the Flagstaff region.
Recognizing the Flagstaff region was comprised of small communities that needed to share resources, the committee focussed on the strengths and advantages their rural communities had to offer physicians and their families in order to achieve success.
Part of the strategy involved the creation of medical scholarships for students who have completed their Grade 10, 11, and 12 education at a school within the Flagstaff region.
According to scholarship recipient and medical student, Brett Wegenast, the scholarship relieved some the financial stress facing students in a professional program of seven or more years: “It really represents the support our community has for students.”
Between 2008 and 2013, four physicians were successfully recruited. This was achieved using a combination of advertising in medical journals and successful site visits. A promotional video showcasing the Flagstaff region was also produced and distributed to medical professionals contemplating relocation.
In 2009, Flagstaff County purchased a house in Killam for potential physicians to live in while deciding to establish a practice; and in 2012 a financial strategy funding the costs associated with securing rental properties for locums, contract nurses and permanent physicians in each of the three communities throughout the Flagstaff region was developed.
In addition to taking a proactive approach towards international and locum recruitment, Flagstaff also took advantage of the resources available to them provincially through the Alberta Rural Physician Action Plan. According to Geri Clark, Executive Director, Killam Health Care Centre, the annual RPAP Community Physician Attraction and Retention committee has afforded their committee the opportunity to learn about the strategies other people in other communities are using.
Ultimately, Ms. Clark says it was the Flagstaff community coming together in a crisis and supporting each other that make the difference.
“It helps us to gel our communities together and promote our community and the best life for these physicians.”
The 2013 award was presented at the Alberta Chamber’s 2013 Fall Board Meeting. Delegates from across Alberta attended a luncheon in honour of the 2013 award recipient.
Click here to view the entire RPAP Alberta Rural Community Recruitment and Retention Award playlist and other great videos on our YouTube channel.
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