Burpee and Mills to provide funding toward recruitment of health care professionals

EVANSVILLE – A recent presentation to the Manitoulin Municipal Association (MMA) concerning a shortfall in funds toward recruiting health care workers and doctors for Manitoulin Island this year has already proven to be successful.

“I think we should be providing some funding,” stated Councillor Art Hayden, at a Burpee and Mills township council meeting last week. “This is a critical service and issue for not just Western Manitoulin, but all of the Island.” 

It was explained by Councillor Penny Palonen that Alyssa Spooney, recruitment coordinator for the Manitoulin Island recruitment and retention committee (whose area also includes the North Shore up to Sault Ste. Marie), met with the MMA at its most recent meeting. With a shortfall in funds toward recruiting health care workers and doctors for Manitoulin Island this year, municipalities and First Nations on Manitoulin Island are being requested to help make up this financial shortfall.

It was pointed out currently, Island municipalities provide funding toward the recruitment budget of approximately $32,755. 

The committee services four sites, both of the Manitoulin Health Centre (MHC) sites (in Little Current and Mindemoya), and the health centres in Gore Bay and Manitowaning; Ms. Spooner recruits professional doctors and health care workers for all four sites. 

Ms. Spooner told the MMA she will recruit physicians and health care workers on a long-term basis for each site. “And, for instance, when a (current) physician takes vacation I help to recruit locums to replace them during this time off.”

Ms. Spooney explained to the MMA, “currently we have six (financial) municipal contributors (to the recruitment program). These include municipalities and the MHC. One of the reasons I’m here is to thank you for your support and to request financial support from municipalities that are not currently contributing.” Everyone in communities around the Island use and benefit from the services, she noted. 

Al MacNevin, mayor of the Town of NEMI and chair of the recruitment committee told the MMA that, “over the last eight years-plus we have had a number of communities join in and support this program, and some leave. This year’s budget, using the hospital’s fiscal year, ends in March.” He pointed out in the past Noojmowin Teg Health Centre has been a contributor and participant in the program, but dropped out this year as it works with the federal government on a program. 

“With the loss of this support there will be a shortfall in this year’s budget,” said Mayor MacNevin. “We will be looking for an increase in our current partners’ contributions, or hopefully be able to encourage others to take part. It is important to realize we all are having a tough time with our budgets this year.” The committee is looking at a shortfall of between $3,000-$4,000 this year, and looking at a shortfall on next year’s budget as well. 

“We have contributed in the past, but haven’t contributed on a regular basis,” said Burpee and Mills Reeve Ken Noland. He noted Ms. Spooner is very active in trying to recruit doctors and health care personnel for Manitoulin Island. 

It was noted by Councillor Palonen that Gordon/Barrie Island, which is the closest municipality to Burpee-Mills, has donated $500 in the past to the recruitment program.

“What does everyone think, should we be making a contribution?” asked Reeve Noland. 

“I think we should be providing something,” said Councillor Hayden. “This is a critical service for Western Manitoulin.”

“If other municipalities who aren’t currently contributing can support this it will work out,” said Reeve Noland who offered, “my feeling is that we should be contributing.”

Councillor Hayden put forward a motion that Burpee and Mills contributes $1,500 this year to support the health care recruitment program. 

Ms. Spooner told the Recorder after the meeting, “I have been invited to attend and make a presentation to Billings Township council and I’m in the process of setting another meeting time with Robinson Township. 

“I’m very excited with the response so far and that municipalities have shown interest in getting involved in the program,” said Ms. Spooner. She said the need for recruiting doctors and physicians is a need on Manitoulin Island, “but it’s a need everywhere across Northern Ontario.”