The Cariboo Chilcotin Hospital District could improve its chances of recruiting and retaining doctors and nurses by following the lead of Quesnel by providing more market housing for professionals, according to the CAO.
CAO John MacLean told the hospital board earlier this month that such a move could remove a major barrier in attracting more medical professionals to the region.
Quesnel has created two suites for short-term doctors and nurse practitioners. The dorm-style suites include an apartment with two separate bedrooms with their own ensuites.
“We’re all aware of what’s happening in our community right now with houses changing hands and vacancy rates being low,” MacLean said. “We see this as an opportunity for the hospital board to do something concrete and address a major stumbling block.”
MacLean noted the region is continuing with an open request for proposals for recruitment and retention of medical professionals, and has had “rather extensive conversations” with one local government organization, which he didn’t name.
Housing is a big issue in both Williams Lake and 100 Mile, with the latter having recently lost three doctors after one retired and the other two left town.
“There is an opportunity to move forward. It’s just going to take a bit more time. We’re fully aware of the changes that are happening in 100 Mile in terms of the loss of physicians and the challenges it faces,” MacLean said. “If we can copy the model they’ve utilized in Quesnel at least we can remove that one barrier.”
Besides having an apartment available, Quesnel Health Care Recruitment co-ordinator Beverlee Barr has worked hard since 2019 to foster relationships with landlords and property owners, who now reach out in advance if they have a spot available.
When new doctors arrive, she also assembles a welcome basket with local goods, helps organize airport pickup and gives advice on vehicle and furniture shopping.
MacLean said they will continue working with the local government organization and are expected to make a decision in the next month or so.
Hospital board chair Bob Simpson said the recruitment situation is compounded by the fact there’s a shortage of doctors and nurse practitioners across B.C. “It’s kind of a double whammy. It’s hard enough to recruit but compounded by an overall shortage,” he said.
Natalie Kulyk, Director Clinical Operations for Interior Health, said the health authority is actively recruiting medical professionals in the Cariboo region.