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Agreement aims to entice doctors

Province and NLMA agreement will boost Stephenville’s existing incentive program

Sir Thomas Roddick Hospital in Stephenville, NL. – © Jaymie L. White

By Jaymie L. White

Special to the Appalachian

STEPHENVILLE – On Friday, Feb. 4, the provincial government announced that a tentative memorandum of agreement with the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association (NLMA) has been approved by members.

The particulars of the agreement will be released once both parties sign, but it does include over $32 million per year in new funding investments to ensure the improvement of physician services around the province. Also included in the deal are Atlantic parity for physicians, a bonus program for remote sites and a provincial locum retirement program.

Siobhan Coady, Deputy Premier and Minister of Finance released the following statement shortly after the announcement:

“This memorandum of agreement puts us in a firm place to deliver stronger health care for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.”

Mayor of Stephenville, Tom Rose, who has long been a proponent of improving healthcare recruitment and retention throughout the region, said this move by government is a step in the right direction.

“This is a time where recruitment and retention is so critical for communities like Stephenville, or any other community,” said Rose. “Now that the government has a tentative agreement with the medical association, it’s almost like that’s one thing behind us now. Let’s move forward and do what we do best, and that’s taking care of the citizens of Newfoundland and Labrador.”

Rose believes that this decision is going to work well with the programs that the Town of Stephenville already has in place to attract and retain more healthcare workers.

“The closer we get to parity with the rest of the Maritimes and Atlantic Canada, it allows retention and recruitment to happen a little easier, and the incentives that we’re putting in place for recruitment or retention are more impactful because everything else starts to come in line to be equal, so I’m really pleased. Just knowing that they reached that tentative agreement is going to help our town, our hospital, and our citizens.”

MHA Tony Wakeham (Stephenville – Port au Port) agrees that this is a positive step by the government.

“The fact that they’ve reached an agreement and it’s been ratified by the medical association is a good thing. It’s a good first step and something that was long overdue. I think they were up to four years without a contract, so now that they’ve got a contract in place and it appears that the contract has some provisions in there that will allow for a different type of practice – a blended payment model – which should allow physicians to spend more time with patients that need to be seen for a longer period of time, but will also allow them to perhaps participate in a lot of these community teams. They’re talking about setting up in a new healthcare model, so we’ll look forward to what comes out of those details.”

Wakeham said it appears to put the province on a more level playing field with the rest of Atlantic Canada, but now it will come down to the recruiting efforts.

“We’re all going to want to know a provincial recruitment strategy and how it’s going to roll out and what changes can we expect to see in some of the recruitment. They do talk about some retention issues and recruitment issues and bonuses for rural locations, but again, we haven’t seen the details of it. The bigger challenge I guess is, those graduating students that graduate from our med school, making sure that at the end of the day, the provincial recruitment team is in there communicating with the med students on a regular basis and trying to recruit them to come to different parts of our province, not just urban.”

Even though this is a positive step forward, there remains the issue of actually getting people to apply. Wakeham says that ideally that means focusing on entry requirements and making the application process easier, as well as facilitating the ability for new doctors to set up a practice. The MHA also wants to ensure that the province does more to retain the medical students who already train here. That number should be expected to grow too.

“Right now, in our province, we obviously have a significant shortage of physicians and so the onus is going to be on government and recruitment to try and fill as many positions as we can and taking away the disincentives from a financial point of view certainly goes toward solving that part.”

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