CORNER BROOK The two people who want to be Corner Brook’s next mayor fully support the idea of a community coalition to attract more family doctors to the region, although they have different visions of its role.
In Thursday’s edition of The Western Star, Dr. Mark Smallwood said he would like to see the shortage of general practitioners in the Corner Brook area become an issue in the campaign leading up to the municipal elections on Sept. 24.
A family physician himself, Smallwood estimated that there are about 5,000 Corner Brook residents who do not have a family doctor.
Mayoral candidate Charles Pender was on a hospital committee struck by the City of Corner Brook when he was a member of council before the last election in 2001. He thinks Smallwood’s suggestion of forming a coalition of municipal government, heath care and business representatives to make a concerted effort to lure new family doctors to the city is a great idea.
“This is something that is necessary,” said Pender. “It is something I have always been in favour of and have led in the past. If I am elected mayor, Mark won’t have to call me because I will be calling him.”
Pender said it is health care professionals who know best what it takes to attract more of their kind to the area, but including business people and seniors would make for a more effective coalition.
“I think it would also be important for the city to know when doctors are going to retire and what the timelines are, so we can be more proactive in assisting our local GPs find new doctors to come here,” said Pender.
Donna Francis, the only other candidate running for the mayor’s job, said recruitment is best left to Western Health, but the city can still play a huge role in convincing new doctors to come and stay. The city’s job, she added, is to be a place that is attractive to not just physicians, but other professionals, businesses and young families interested in coming to Corner Brook.
“I feel the city’s role is a supportive role, not only for Western Health, but also for the university and for other businesses and for anybody looking to come here,” she said. “The city’s role is more global. We need to attract people here for all sorts of reasons.”
Being successful at that, said Francis, should help attract new doctors too.
“The better we do our job, the easier it would be for Western Health to do their job,” she said.
She does like the idea of a coalition that includes a wide cross-section of the city and is focused on physician recruitment.
“Everybody has something great to bring to the table,” she said. “The idea of a coalition is a great idea — again, as a supportive role to what Western Health tries to do on a daily basis.”
The Western Star threw out the question of doctor recruitment to all Corner Brook city council candidates. Check out their responses:
I don’t think this needs to be an election issue; I think the new council should, like it did years ago, select a committee of council to address the many other health issues and work along with government officials and Western Health to address the many complaints we receive. I think and believe this kind of improved communication could be very helpful and hopefully met with success.
I agree with Dr. Smallwood. The family Doctor shortage in Corner Brook is just not a Western Health concern but a major concern for your municipal leaders and the business community as a whole. I know to many families out there that don't have a family Dr. The newly elected council should look at forming a committee and working together with business leaders and Western Healths recruitment and retention team. 5000 citizens of Corner Brook without a family Dr. Is a frightening number. This needs to be addressed early in the new Council’s mandate.
Mark Smallwood is absolutely right! Saying that health care is a provincial responsibility is a cop out. There’s plenty the city can do. We need to work closely with Western Health to help them promote our city to new physicians, and then help them close the deal by identifying clinic space to lease or buy. It’s important for the health of our citizens and it’s good business to boot.
I agree with Dr. Smallwood’s suggestion of forming a coalition. Together they can provide support to recruitment and retention. Health care is a core value of any municipality and is a critical component of any economic development plan. Council must consider this when developing a long-term vision for where it would like the city to be in the next 10-15 years. Council cannot simply focus on administrative and budgetary items, it must produce a long-term strategy and health care is a vital component. I do realize health care is a provincial jurisdiction; a coalition could offer strength.
Recruitment of physicians is a legitimate issue to be discussed during the election. Access to health care is an essential component for individual well being and a sustainable community. Beyond their professional work, health care workers are a strategic resource within our city in many capacities. Our wide range of population demographics is challenging our health care system and we will require physicians to mange our elderly population and the young families in the city. Partnering with the medical profession is a proactive approach to begin a process to address physician recruitment and retention demands in Corner Brook.
The recruitment of physicians should be a municipal election issue because there is nothing more important than good health! This is more difficult when we cannot access the health care system because of a shortage of doctors. It is up to our city councillors and staff to promote our city as a welcoming and vibrant community to any doctors who are looking to set up a practice. Corner Brook needs to provide clean safe streets and sidewalks, recreational facilities and safe biking routes, ease to anyone wanting to build a home and dog parks and playgrounds for their children and pets.
I feel that this should be a municipal election issue. We need new physicians to care for the thousands of people currently without one. Being able to find a physician will attract more people and businesses to the area and more physicians will increase the demand for the new hospital to be built sooner. Also, when the Mayor and Councillors travel to other places, they can find out how they recruit physicians and then bring this back to City Hall. Then, an up to date tourism package could be developed and presented to Western Health in a combined recruitment effort.
Dr. Smallwood stated his willingness “... to help co-ordinate a coalition focused on recruitment and retention.” Any time a citizen offers a personal commitment — whether a physician or homeowner or businessperson — it is especially important for council to meet that person to see if council can support their suggestion. A willingness by council to listen to those outside city hall — such as Dr. Smallwood — will encourage others to suggest innovative solutions to the problems we face. In this particular case, any practical suggestion that council can follow to encourage doctors to come to Corner Brook should certainly be implemented.
I am one of the 5,000 that Dr Smallwood estimates are without a family doctor, so I know first hand the issues which stem from insufficient access to health care. From my time with the Grenfell Campus Student Union, I know I am not alone. Many students make special trips home just to see a doctor. Dr Smallwood has brought forward a solution which is very realistic and should be implemented. We need to act now in order to build a more livable city.
Council could do a better job of attracting everybody, including physicians and businesses, to our community. It’s not good enough to sit back and wait for people to come here. We have to get out there and actively encourage all people to come and see how beautiful Corner Brook is.
Municipal leaders who are involved in this city should know the amenities of this city and the surrounding area and should be first in line to drop the welcome mat. As stated by Dr. Smallwood we need physicians to sustain and grow our community and we should be willing to do our utmost to attract them. Dr. Smallwood has stated he is willing to help co-ordinate a coalition focused on retention and recruitment — what a golden opportunity. Should this be an election issue? No, it should be part of any councillor’s mandate and it will remain one of mine.
I see the role of council in recruitment of physicians being a supportive role to those who already practise here. We need to provide them with the information and tools allowing them to entice other doctors to come. Most professionals come to an area based on a recommendation by their peers. Doctors come to areas for many reasons, but the main one is quality of life for them and their families. We need to continue to provide quality recreation facilities and amenities. We can assist new doctors in finding office space and recommend suitable locations.
MARY ANN MURPHY
I have to commend Dr. Smallwood for bringing this problem to the forefront. I was very surprised to read that there are approximately 5,000 people without a family Doctor. My goal has always been about trying to provide the best health care possible through my past position with the Hospital Foundation, but how can we provide good health care without physicians? This situation has to be rectified and Corner Brook Council has to step up. If I am elected, I will request a meeting with the officials at Western Health so that we can work together and find a solution.
As important as the issue is, I don’t believe it needs to be an issue in this upcoming campaign. I believe this because I don’t think we have the expertise to deal with the issues. That responsibility belongs to Western Health. I believe the issues for this election should be matters over which councilors has some control, such as putting greater effort into the growing of new businesses and residentially. The issues we should be dealing with are towards making Corner Brook a great place to raise a family. If you build it, they will come.
History tells us that the provincial cavalry is not coming to rescue us over the shortage of physicians in Corner Brook. This does not mean council should not keep pressing government to do more, but we should be taking control. The doctor is right; our new council would be wise to take heed. A coalition is a sensible approach to attract and retain physicians and the city should take the lead. Let’s show them why Corner Brook is the best place to live and raise a family. This approach will be good for the local economy, our health and well-being.
Dr. Smallwood raises a good point in describing a role for our city that hasn't been deemed a priority. As a pharmacist, I see firsthand the frustrations that people experience when they don't have a family doctor. The city can partner with Western Health for recruitment. Firstly, the city can certainly play a role in helping integrate new doctors in the community. Secondly, The Town of Stephenville plays an active role in assisting with recruitment. We wouldn't have to look to far to find good examples of how this is being done.
I agree with Dr. Smallwood. It is my opinion the city should be advocating the need for new physicians. It is also the responsibility of the city to present itself as a place attractive to live for family and grow as a professional. I like Dr. Smallwood’s view that the city can act as a coordinator that facilitates to magnify the message. The current campaign is a great venue for Dr. Smallwood’s concerns. The need for physicians is part of the broader issue of openness, communication and economic development. Leadership, direction and coordination should be provided by the city.
I believe the city could make it more of an attractive place for physicians to live and work through initiatives whereby someone at City Hall could welcome new physicians, their families and other newcomers to our city. We could also minimize red tape for citizens looking to build or renovate. The new City Council should establish a working group composed of Western Health, physicians, city council and business leaders to address this issue. It is far too easy to say this is a provincial government and Western Health problem, it is also our problem.
I recognize that the shortage of family physicians and doctors in Corner Brook is a serious concern for many people. I would be interested in working with local physicians to identify ways to encourage more doctorsto come to Corner Brook. I would like to work on developing materials that could outline the wonderful features of our community including the low crime rate, extensive opportunities for outdoor recreation in both summer and winter, and the hospitality of the people of Corner Brook.