Manitoulin Island doctor recruitment committee seeks additional support

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MANITOULIN – With a shortfall in funds towards recruiting health care workers and doctors for Manitoulin Island this year, municipalities and First Nations on Manitoulin Island are being requested to make up this financial shortfall.

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 members of the Manitoulin Municipal Association (MMA) last week. 

She pointed out the recruitment committee was launched seven to eight years ago and she has been the recruitment coordinator for the past five years. 

“The committee services four sites, both of the Manitoulin Health Care (MHC) sites (in Little Current and Mindemoya) and the health centres in Gore Bay and Manitowaning. I recruit professional (doctors and health care workers for all four sites.” 

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

Ms. Spooney explained, “currently we have six (financial) municipal contributors (to the recruitment program). These include municipalities and 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 uses and benefits from these services,” noting that NEMI Mayor Al MacNevin is chair of the committee.

“Over the last eight years-plus, we have had a number of communities join in and support this program, and some leave,” Mr. MacNevin told the MMA. “This year’s budget, using the hospitals’ fiscal year, ends in March.” He pointed out in the past Noojmowin Teg Health Institute has been a contributor-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 Mr. 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. But, for instance the Gore Bay Medical Centre is going to lose two of its doctors at the end of this year, with retirement. Mindemoya is going to be short soon as is Little Current with a number of doctors who are on the eve of retirement. It is crucial to keep our committee going and retain Alyssa to be able to recruit doctors. She attends conferences for example, even virtually, to try and recruit potential new doctors and health care workers to come here by promoting that Manitoulin is the best place to be not only for their work but the Island lifestyle.”

“We are hoping to get more communities involved on the committee,” said Mr. MacNevin. “It’s crucial to get everyone involved.”

“What shortfall is the committee anticipating?” asked Lee Hayden, reeve of Gordon/Barrie Island. 

“We’re looking at a deficit shortfall of between $3,000-4,000 approximately, to the end of March,” said Ms. Spooney, who noted at this point the committee is looking at a shortfall on next year’s budget as well. “Year by year, we have been squeezing by, with some municipalities contributing some years and not others.”  

Richard Stephens, mayor of Central Manitoulin inquired as to whether the municipalities could get a copy of the committee’s budget. “This would give us an overview of where things stand.”

“We would be happy to share this information,” said Ms. Spooney.

 “I’d love to be invited to any meeting taking place with Alyssa taking us through the process,” said Tim MacKinlay of the Robinson Services Board. Billings Mayor Ian Anderson expressed his interest in a presentation meeting as well. 

Mr. MacNevin said it is very important, “that we have someone out interviewing and talking to potential doctors and health care workers about working here on the Island and to make then understand it is not just their practice they would have here but the lifestyle of Manitoulin. That’s why we need a recruiter out there. Alyssa has done a really good job, and it is great if other municipalities are interested in her making a presentation to them.”

“I’m sure we will all talk to our individual municipalities,” said MMA Chair Ken Noland.