Perceived lack of access to a doctor can be a stumbling block to attracting new residents and skilled workers, Sarnia-Lambton’s doctor recruiter says.
“We find that families with complex health needs, for example, may be reluctant to relocate … if they don’t know they have easy access to primary care,” said Carly Cox, with the non-profit Sarnia-Lambton Physician Recruitment Taskforce.
Teaming up with the Sarnia-Lambton Economic Partnership, the agency that’s helped bring 14 family doctors here in the past six years, including five in 2019, is launching a one-year pilot project to try to make that a non-issue, she said.
The idea is to provide new employees at any of the 38 Sarnia Lambton Industrial Alliance member companies a means to fast-track the application process with doctor’s offices.
Normally, people looking for a family doctor can check doctors4sarnialambton.com and call individual offices and fill out individual application forms, Cox said.
“What we want to do is expedite the process, where you fill out one form, one central location, and then you can decide which physician you want and the form will be transferred to that physician,” she said.
Likely that’ll be through a private site, she said.
Plans are to eventually expand the program, hopefully for all Sarnia-Lambton newcomers, she said.
The Sarnia Lambton Industrial Alliance was picked for the pilot because its membership is large enough to provide a good testing ground for the program, but not so large that it’ll be unmanageable, Cox said.
“This is just another example that speaks to the economic impact physicians have,” she said, alluding to a recent pitch to Sarnia city council for next year’s operational funding. “Newcomers are not going to relocate if they don’t know that we have robust primary care and that their needs and their family’s needs will be met when they relocate here.”
The task force, with a budget of about $106,000, is asking for the usual city grant of $72,000 amid projected recruitment needs of several more doctors needed in the next three years.
Others are retiring and leaving patient rosters large enough for two new recruits to split, she said.
There’s been talk about making the recruitment agency part of the city – an economic development study has been proposed for 2020 to look into it and other things – and council is expected to vote Tuesday on how to support the task force in the interim.
Some, including Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley and Coun. Mike Stark, talked about giving the organization more money so it could have stability for more than a year before making another funding pitch, and to improve its visibility in the community.
“There’s certainly a number of initiatives we could put more funds towards,” said Cox, who, when asked at council chambers, said ideally the task force could use another $73,000 per year.
“I have a full dream list I would love to be a reality one day,” she said.
The intent when the task force was established almost 20 years ago was to have various Lambton municipalities pay $1 per population to marketing for local physicians.
All but Sarnia and Point Edward have dropped out over the years.