For over a decade the Chamber has recognized that family physician recruitment is critical to meeting the primary health care needs of our rapidly growing population. Lack of access to family practitioners is not only a serious community health care issue impacting our citizens, it is also an economic development issue impacting our business community.
Originally a volunteer driven initiative, supported by passionate and committed Chamber members, family physician recruitment became a full time, staff and volunteer supported initiative with the launch of the Chamber Health Care Resources Council (CHCRC) in 2006. With staff resources and financial investment from our municipalities and corporate community, the Health Council has been able to enhance previous recruitment efforts.
The four key objectives of the CHCRC are to:
1. Attract and retain family physicians 2. Support local hospitals in their recruitment and retention 3. Make Kitchener-Waterloo-Woolwich attractive to health care professionals and support workers 4. Develop policy and advocacy initiatives to address community health care.
One of the key recruitment initiatives is the annual Family Medicine Resident Weekend over which we positively engage young physicians in training and promote the community as a welcoming, attractive leading edge centre of excellence with promising practice opportunities. The weekend is also provides business connections for the physicians' partners to learn more about employment opportunities in their respective fields. Over the past twelve years this event has been instrumental in residents' decisions to establish their family practices in the area.
Since 1998 over 151 family physicians have been recruited and the number of people without a family physician has been cut in half, from over 40,000 to just over 20,000 today.
Despite our successes, The Chamber Health Care Resources Council is concerned that the gap may widen over the next few years as population growth, retirement of existing physicians and the changing expectations of new medical graduates converge.
As the Health Council considers how we can eliminate the gap, having a place to practice has emerged as a priority need. The new "norm" is that today's young family practitioners are looking for life balance. They work fewer hours and roster few patients than long established physicians. The majority are also female practitioners, many of whom want to work part-time. This means that the number of practitioners needed is even larger.
In order to provide them with a place to practice, we are now exploring the feasibility of building either a private or community developed medical centre that could provide a turn-key solution for 18 or more family physicians. If successful, the model could be replicated to more sites across greater Kitchener Waterloo.
It is important that the model provide physicians with an environment that is attractive to them in all stages of their careers so that there is a strong mentoring environment. It is also a great strategy to help existing physicians ease into retirement.
Many of the Waterloo Region McMaster Medical School undergraduates are choosing family medicine. Some have started first year residencies in our K-W Family Medicine Residency Program with the desire to ultimately practice here. Many more will follow over the next few years. All have made it clear that they are looking for an established medical facility which will meet their practice style and needs.
The Chamber will continue to move forward with this new strategic direction and initiatives that will ultimately solve the family physician shortage.
Five years from now we want to be able to say that every resident in Kitchener-Waterloo-Woolwich has access to a family physician and the best primary care possible.
Are you a physician thinking about practicing in the greater K-W area? View the recruitment brochure.
Looking for a family physician for you and your family? Click here.