Goertzen: ‘Show me the community’


Province celebrates hiring of new doctors in region

1-C-Medical announcementWebsite

Photo by Eoin Devereux

Pictured (left to right): Brandon West MLA Reg Helwer, Arther-Virden MLA Doyle Piwniuk, Brandon East MLA Len Isleifson,  Riding Mountain MLA Greg Nesbitt, Agassiz MLA Eileen Clarke, Dr. Kristen Wareham of Neepawa, Provincial Health minister Kelvin Goertzen and Penny Gilson, the chief executive officer for Prairie Mountain Health.

Eoin Devereux
Neepawa Banner & Press

The effort to woo doctors to rural communities appears to be working. On Friday, Sept. 29, representatives with the provincial government, along with Prairie Mountain Health, assembled at the recently expanded Beautiful Plains Community Medical Clinic in Neepawa. The reason for the gathering was to announce the recruitment of 22 new primary care physicians, practicing in 14 different communities throughout western Manitoba.

Six new doctors have already moved to Swan River, while Brandon, Dauphin and Deloraine have each gained two additional physicians and Neepawa and Grandview each added one. On top of that, eight other communities, including Minnedosa and Shoal Lake, will soon welcome new doctors through the University of Manitoba’s international medical graduate program.

Provincial Health minister Kelvin Goertzen was in attendance in Neepawa for the announcement and noted that this is the largest number of physicians the regional health authority has recruited within a single fiscal year since its creation back in 2012. He noted that the increased level of success can be attributed to factors outside of the financial.

“Money, while it can be a factor for some doctors, it’s really low, in terms of the priority for most doctors. They can make money, to be frank, anywhere in Canada. So they’re not making these decisions on how much money they’re going to make, but where they’re going to make that money, so the community aspect becomes far more important,” stated Goertzen. “For a long time, I often wondered why we had to do the ‘Show me the money’ exercise as opposed to ‘Show me the community,’. We have wonderful communities that you want to live in. Doctors want to live in a community where they feel included and recruitment efforts focused on that belief are bound to pay off. The region is continuing to work with communities to promote rural living and this combination of efforts helps connect physicians with rural communities where they will stay to build their careers and provide quality care to area residents.” 

Goertzen also cited the effort to draw more rural students into the medical field, because there is a higher likelihood that if a physician is initially from a rural area, they’ll be open to practicing in a rural area.

Penny Gilson, the chief executive officer for Prairie Mountain Health was also on hand for the announcement. She indicated that the RHA and its communities have remained relentless in their efforts to recruit physicians to the region and are pleased to see that those efforts have paid off this year.

“In my experience dealing with rural communities, they are so willing to step up, asking, ‘What can we do to help?’ We want to acknowledge that. This is a collective effort. The communities are key partners in ongoing recruitment and retention efforts,” Gilson noted. 

New doctor establishing herself in Neepawa

For Dr. Kristen Wareham, who is beginning her medical career in Neepawa, the decision to practice here was based on the broad scope of factors, including the feeling of acceptance she received.

“During my residency program, we came out for a month of elective time here and that opened my eyes to the town of Neepawa. I was somewhat familiar with the area, but this was an opportunity to be immersed into the community and it was just so welcoming,” indicated Dr. Wareham. “My decision was also based on the broad scope of practice available in the area - acute care, office care, obstetrical care and geriatric health. This is all supported by the town and surrounding communities and a well-established, experienced and supportive physician group, and I look forward to beginning my career here.”

Wareham and her husband first moved to Neepawa in November, though she had not started her practice until early July, after completing a final portion of her training in Brandon back in June. She said the transition from a larger metropolitan centre to a smaller community has been a good one. “I like the transition. It’s nice to drive down the street and see [a patient] you know and see that they’re doing well.  It’s only a short drive to the clinic or to the hospital and care home. I’ve found [the transition] has been fairly easy.”

After the press conference, representatives with the Beautiful Plains Community Medical Clinic and NADCO unveiled a plaque to commemorate the commitment and support from the community and specifically the efforts of Mary Ellen Clark, Arnold Suski and Murray Parrott.