Region-wide family doctor incentive program on Clarington committee agenda Monday


Published May 30, 2024 at 1:18 pm

doctor recruitment

Clarington will be signing on with its Durham Region neighbours to entice more doctors to set up shop here to meet the growing need for physicians in the community.

Growth in Clarington has been dramatic in recent years, with its group of hamlets and villages now a community with more than 100,000 people. But there have been drawbacks with that rapid growth; notably a severe lack of doctors.

A program operating between 2007 and 2017 used an investment of $440,000 to attract 25 new family doctors to town, providing 30,000 Clarington residents access to family health care close to home.

Clarington followed that up with a $100,000 incentive program last year to recruit more doctors, with the initiative funded by a reserve fund that had a balance (as of Dec. 31, 2023) of more than $632,000.

That program would see the municipality provide a $25,000 incentive paid upfront upon the successful recruitment of a family physician to the medical clinic on King Street in Bowmanville. The clinic would also provide $25,000 per doctor, with the deal requiring the funds be paid back if the physician leaves within five years.

Each new doctor would be required to roster 1,000 patients to receive the grant.

The initiative is similar to a program launched by the Town of Whitby, which has committed $20,000 to try to coax more doctors to relocate to the town after residents said during community engagement for the new Strategic Plan that they considered attracting doctors one of their top priorities.

With Durham facing a shortage of approximately 145 family physicians, further incentives are still required to make up the shortfall, leading to Durham Region Council creating the region-wide Family Physician Recruitment Program to attract and retain family medicine trainees and family physicians to Durham Region.

The fund will also pay for a full-time family physician recruiter, with core funding expenses shared between the Region and local municipalities.

Total program costs will be $55,000 this year and $235,000 in 2025, with subsequent annual costs in 2026 and 2027 indexed to inflation. Clarington’s share of the regional program will be $3,960 this year and $16,198 next year.

The partnership is in addition to a Queen’s University-Lakeridge Health family medicine program that was announced a year ago to help address the doctor shortage. The program added 14 new undergraduate seats and 22 new postgraduate seats at the university to train family doctors specifically to work in Durham and the surrounding area.

The medical students are trained at Lakeridge Health Oshawa both in classes and for their residency.

The Queen’s-Lakeridge program is billed as an “attraction” initiative and is geared more towards promoting the area as a place to work and live and assisting with programs such as school and job information for doctors’ families. During length of the program time, recruiters will work to ensure that the trainees choose to stay here after the completion of their training.

A growing number of Clarington residents have no family physician. Sixty per cent of the 100,000 visits to urgent care clinics in the community are from patients with no local family doctor, up “significantly” from approximately 43 per cent from five years ago.

Doctor shortages is a problem plaguing many towns in Durham and across Ontario (particularly in smaller and more remote communities) and even inspired a vastly underrated fish-out-of-water television comedy of the 1990s called Northern Exposure.

The Durham Region Family Physician Recruitment Program will be on Clarington’s Executive Committee agenda Monday, with committee members asked to sign off on the deal. Staff are recommending Clarington Council approve the funding arrangement.

Bowmanville Health Centre


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