The government of Prince Edward Island is now offering new doctors higher bonuses and a shorter service commitment when they sign up to work in the province, in a bid to recruit more than two dozen doctors.
Incentives are offered to family physicians and certain specialists who accept employment anywhere in PEI, whereas in the past, incentives were reserved for smaller and more remote communities.
For the first time, new family doctors in Charlottetown, Stratford and Cornwall are being offered bonuses of $50,000.
“We’ve just been authorized to increase the amounts we provide to family physicians,” said Rebecca Gill, Director of Recruitment and Retention for the PEI Department of Health and Wellness. P.-E.
This is only part of the solution.— Dr. Ann Collins
The commitment of doctors to work in the province has also been reduced from three to five years, to just three.
“It may be a bit more lucrative for doctors who want to sign up for that three-year period,” Gill said.
She points out, however, that incentives are only one part of a very complex recruitment process.
New doctors seek incentives
Gill said offering such bonuses allows recruiting teams to be competitive and said the amounts offered by Prince Edward Island are in line with those of neighboring provinces.
Medical residents who have just completed their training and are just beginning to establish themselves in their careers often look for incentives because they are faced with significant student debt.
“It speaks to the challenges we face in terms of being able to find qualified family physicians who want to work in all areas,” Gill said.
The current structure still offers bigger bonuses for smaller communities like Summerside, Three Rivers and beyond.
Medical groups react
In a statement to CBC News, the Medical Society of PEI said it was pleased with the additional financial incentives, but said the bonuses will not solve the national doctor shortage.
Dr. Ann Collins, former president of the Canadian Medical Association, said incentives are important for attracting people to certain fields, but they are only a small part of the solution.
Collins said the new grads were heavily in debt, but working conditions were also important, as was work-life balance.
“They’re very interested in who will be there to support them, who they’ll work with, what their overhead will be or how much the infrastructure will cost to run the office,” Collins said. “It’s only part of the solution.”
Gill said new incentives should help make the island more attractive to new doctors deciding where to settle.
“We allow our recruitment teams to position themselves in a very competitive market.”
She said it’s a tool, and it can sometimes help start conversations with interested doctors.
The province is currently looking for 27 family physicians, and Gill said there is an ongoing need for specialists in anesthesia, emergency medicine and psychiatry.