With additional municipal support, Island doctor recruitment program funding shortfall is alleviated

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KAGAWONG – With donations now having been made by two additional municipalities, Billings Township council recently and Burpee and Mills Township previously, the shortfall in funding towards recruiting health care workers and doctors for Manitoulin Island this year has now been alleviated. 

At a Billings council meeting last week, council agreed to put $3,000 in its draft budget for this year as a donation for the Manitoulin Island recruitment and retention committee (whose area also includes the North Shore up to Sault Ste. Marie).

“This came about after a presentation from Alyssa Spooney at our last meeting,” said Mayor Ian Anderson.

“Yes, it’s exciting,” Alyssa Spooney, recruitment co-ordinator for the Manitoulin Island recruitment and retention committee, told the Recorder this past Tuesday. “We’re currently sitting in a good position, and looking to break even this year.”

“I received positive feedback at a presentation I made at the MMA (Manitoulin Municipal Association) meeting held recently. It is certainly good news that more municipalities decided to come on board to support the program,” said Ms. Spooney noting that “we had two additional municipalities provide funding this year, Burpee and Mills, and Billings.” 

Ms. Spooney told Billings council at a March 15 meeting, “my role is to help recruit physicians and health care workers on Manitoulin Island and the North Shore and report to the committee. So, on Manitoulin, for instance, I help recruit physicians when they are needed and recruit locums who fill in for the physicians when they are on vacation.” She pointed out there are physicians in both of the Manitoulin Health Centre sites in Little Current and Manitowaning and the health centres in Gore Bay and Manitowaning. Ms. Spooney helps recruit physicians and health care workers on a long-term care basis for each site.

“I recruit for medical physicians and health care workers across Canada, although COVID-19 has restricted this a little,” said Ms. Spooney. 

“For instance, it supports the MHC (Manitoulin Health Centre) any time need they reach out to me,” said Ms. Spooney. Funding for the past has been provided by Assiginack, Central Manitoulin, MHC, NEMI, Gore Bay and Gordon/Barrie Island. In the past Noojmowin Teg Health Centre has also been a contributing participant in the program, but  dropped out this year as it works with the federal government on a similar program. Island municipalities provide funding toward the recruitment budget of approximately $32,755. This year the committee had been looking at a deficit of between $3,000 to $4,000 this year and a shortfall in next year’s budget as well. 

“It came up that the committee wanted me to reach out to all those townships and municipalities that haven’t contributed in the past,” continued Ms. Spooney. “Several Island communities don’t have a clinic in their area, but residents from around the Island use the medical services provided at the hospitals and medical clinics on the Island.”

“This year we have seen a shortfall in funding and we are inviting any municipality that isn’t contributing to join the committee and participate,” continued Ms. Spooney. 

“I have one question, for the municipalities that have been contributing, are they doing so annually?” asked Mayor Ian Anderson. 

Ms. Spooney said this is the case.

It was pointed out by Mayor Anderson that the township of Burpee and Mills had recently approved a donation of $1,500 to the recruitment program as well. “I’m sure we will do justice at our next council meeting.”