The Prince Edward Island government is now offering new doctors bigger bonuses and a shorter service commitment when they sign up to work in the province, in an effort to recruit more than two dozen doctors.
Incentives are being offered for family physicians and some specialists who take jobs anywhere in P.E.I., whereas in the past bonuses were reserved for smaller, more remote communities.
For the first time new family physicians in Charlottetown, Stratford and Cornwall are being offered bonuses of $50,000.
“We have just been recently authorized to increase the amounts that we’re offering family medicine physicians,” said Rebecca Gill, the director of recruitment and retention for P.E.I.’s Department of Health and Wellness.
This is only part of the solution.— Dr. Ann Collins
Doctors’ commitment to work in the province has also been reduced from three to five years, to just three.
“It can be a bit more lucrative for the physicians who want to sign on for that three-year period,” Gill said.
She stresses, however, incentives are just one component of a very complex recruitment process.
New doctors look for incentives
Gill said offering such bonuses allows recruitment teams to be competitive and said the amounts P.E.I. is offering are in line with neighbouring provinces.
Medical residents who have just finished training and are just getting established in their careers often do look for incentives, since they are looking at substantial student debt loads.
“It speaks to the challenges we’re seeing in terms of being able to find qualified family medicine practitioners who want to work in all areas,” said Gill.
The current structure still offers bigger bonuses for smaller communities such as Summerside, Three Rivers and beyond.
Medical groups react
In a statement to CBC News, the Medical Society of P.E.I. says it’s pleased with the additional financial incentives, but said bonuses will not solve the national doctor shortage.
Dr. Ann Collins, past president of the Canadian Medical Association, said incentives are important to help entice people to certain areas but are only a small part of the solution.
Collins said new grads do have huge debt loads but conditions in the workplace are important too, along with work-life balance.
“They are very interested in who will be there to support them, who they’ll be working with, what will their overhead or the cost of the infrastructure of running the office be,” said Collins. “This is only part of the solution.”
Gill said new incentives should help make the Island look more attractive to new doctors deciding where to set up.
“We are allowing our recruitment teams to be positioned in a very competitive market.”
She said it’s one tool, and it can sometimes help to start conversations with interested doctors.
The province is currently searching for 27 family physicians, and Gill said there’s a constant need for specialists in anesthesia, emergency medicine and psychiatry.