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Chamber gets $82,000 for doctor recruitment efforts

  • February 22 2023
  • By Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter    

SHEET HARBOUR – The Sheet Harbour Chamber of Commerce and Civic Affairs will receive nearly $82,000 from the province for physician recruitment.

According to the announcement, “The Sheet Harbour [Chamber] will focus on the recruitment of new healthcare professionals to Eastern Shore communities. Activities will include exhibiting at physician events and developing a welcome guide and a promotional campaign.”

“This [funding] is to put the tools in our toolbox to allow us to better recruit and retain,” said Greg Cross, chairman of the Chamber’s community advisory committee. “So, for example, on the retention side, there will be funds for us to host a couple of events, hopefully, through the year for the existing hospital staff,” he said. “We will supplement those funds with activities for the rest of the hospital staff as well, because we recognize you can’t support nurses and doctors and ignore [others] who are equally important to keep the facility running. We will put together a program to do a few things to try and keep the staff that we’ve got.”

The $81,825 contribution from the new $2-million Office of Healthcare Professionals Recruitment [OHPR] Community Fund is part of the provincial government’s response to chronic doctor shortages at Eastern Shore Memorial Hospital, with impacts including months-long emergency department closures.

In addition to funding for the chamber, the grants announced last week include $18,400 for the Musquodoboit Valley Health Foundation and $56,000 for the Musquodoboit Harbour and Area Chamber of Commerce and Civic Affairs and the Old School Community Gathering Place.

The Musquodoboit Valley Health Foundation will focus on “recruiting local talent by hosting career days and job fairs in local schools, providing students with first-hand experience of working in healthcare. The foundation will also develop promotional materials and a training strategy to help local healthcare providers advance their skills and designations.”

The Musquodoboit Harbour and Area Chamber of Commerce and Civic Affairs and the Old School Community Gathering Place will work on “retention of healthcare professionals through activities that support health providers who currently commute to create bonds with and settle in the community.”

Speaking on behalf of Michelle Thompson, Minister responsible for the Office of Healthcare Professionals Recruitment, Kent Smith, MLA for Eastern Shore extolled the “united approach” to healthcare recruitment and retention. “The [collaboration] of these three Eastern Shore groups is what Nova Scotia is all about,” he said. “By working together and dividing up the work, [they] will show positive impacts in these communities.”

Added Sheet Harbour Chamber President Janice Christie in the announcement: “I know I speak for the community of the Eastern Shore when I say how delighted we are to be a successful recipient of this funding that will enable us to continue and expand the work we have underway with medical personnel recruitment and retention. It is imperative we retain the physicians and other medical staff we are fortunate to have providing care, and important for us to plan ahead with a succession plan to attract healthcare professionals to our community.”

Cross — who led the Chamber’s team that applied for the grant — said the funds can be used to cover the expenses of attending in-province job fairs, and enhancing local area marketing materials, community guides, and advertising programs “focusing on physicians and nurses … and for us to do a complete survey of the community to see what our needs really are in terms of physicians, nurses and professionals.”

He added: “We also have funds in there for the production of a video about the Sheet Harbour area … We may engage outside sources to do some of these things.”

ESMH’s ER has been closed as much as 70 per cent of the time over the past two years, and shut down since Dec. 28, due to doctor shortages. One of the problems, said Smith at a Chamber event last month, is the provincial funding model which sets different pay scales for doctors according to their facility. “Eastern Shore Memorial Hospital is classified as a level four emergency department, [where] a doctor gets paid $77.18 per hour. An [ER] doctor at level three facility makes $154.31 per hour.”

Under the OHPR program, launched last year, organizations across the province were permitted to apply for up to $100,000 from either or both of two funding streams: community identified projects and community readiness supports. Eligible community organizations had to be a registered society, association, non-profit or charity; or municipalities and chambers of commerce.

A total of 28 groups in Nova Scotia applied by the Dec. 19 deadline. “[Other] successful applicants will be notified in the coming weeks,” the announcement said.