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Marystown council lobbying for medical resident bursary increase

A physician with the West End Medical Centre on Prince Street is on unexpected medical leave and has closed his practice for an unknown period of time.
Marystown council approved a motion Tuesday to lobby the provincial government and Eastern Health to change the Marystown-Burin areas status under the medical resident bursary program.

MARYSTOWN, NL – The Town of Marystown wants the provincial government to change the Marystown-Burin area’s status under the medical resident bursary program.

The program classifies communities in Newfoundland and Labrador on a scale of zero to three – the lower the number, the more rural and remote the location, and higher the bursary amount available to medical residents.

On the scale, Labrador is ranked level zero, for instance, while major cities and towns in the province are level three. The Marystown-Burin area is classified as level two.

Family medicine residents who agree to practice in a level-two community receive a $60,000-bursary. Those in communities ranked level zero, however, receive $90,000.

In exchange for the bursary, recipients must agree to stay in the community for three years.

On Tuesday, council voted to send a letter of support to the provincial government and Eastern Health lobbying the Marystown-Burin area ranking be changed to level zero.

Increasing the bursary amount would assist in the recruitment of family physicians and resolve issues of high physician turnover, council argues.

Mayor Sam Synard told the Southern Gazette after the meeting the Marystown-Burin area classification stems from the fact there is a strong complement of general practitioners (GPs) in the region.

“We do have strong GPs, they’re well established, but several GPs are getting up in age … so why take the risk of having no GPs down the road,” he said.

“It’s been done in other places. They’ve offered some special dispensation in other parts of the province over the amount of the bursary itself.”

Synard said the bursary amount is a major influence in attracting medical residents who are burdened with heavy debt loads by the time they finish their education.

A young doctor has expressed interest in coming to the region, but the lower bursary amount is a factor, he said.

“Any incentives we can help lobby for or even offer ourselves, we’ll try to do,” Synard said.

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