Adopting a balanced approach between physician attraction and retention made all the difference for the 2011 Alberta Rural Community Attraction and Retention Award recipient.
Kneehill County Recruitment and Retention Taskforce – covering the towns of Acme, Carbon, Linden, Three Hills, Trochu and the rural municipality of Kneehill County – was selected by the RPAP and Alberta Chambers of Commerce from a list of eight communities nominated for the 2011 Award.
The Kneehill Committee was recognized for its success engaging physicians and the community, and their strategy of meeting regularly and working together to welcome new physicians, while assisting and appreciating those who continue to practise in the community.
“The RPAP’s vision is to have the right number of physicians in the right places, offering the right services in Rural Alberta,” said RPAP Board Chair, Dr. Clayne Steed. “We feel Kneehill County truly reflects this spirit.”
The success of 2011 stood in stark contrast to the situation a year earlier, when Kneehill County was in crisis.
During the first six months of 2010, five physicians had either retired or left the Kneehill region, leaving 10,000 patients without a family physician. With ER wait times increasing and non-urgent patients overwhelming the local hospital, the Kneehill County Recruitment and Retention Committee needed to attract new physicians while making sure they retained those who remained.
Following the successful recruitment of a new physician to Trochu, the committee reached out to community and provincial partners, and out-going physicians to ask what they could do better. An action plan was developed following these consultations. Monthly meetings of the committee ensured a process was put into place that encompassed all aspects of physician recruitment and retention
While Kneehill County offered medical facilities and practice support, such as a signing bonus, the little things soon stood out as making the biggest difference. Physicians past, present and future stepped in and stepped up, offering support, and ensuring the Kneehill’s needs were looked after.
The community stepped up as well, welcoming new physicians, and making their family’s transition easier with baby-sitting help, gift baskets with life’s amenities and help around the house. Prospective physicians were shown the best of the community, even when weather was at its worst.
Kneehill County put its best foot forward and the physicians followed. Seven new family physicians were recruited to Kneehill County by 2011, and two others were retained.
As one individual stated in their letter of support for Kneehill’s nomination: “Because of the tireless efforts of our Recruitment Team, Kneehill County families will continue to benefit from the ongoing, personal patient-physician relationship that is the cornerstone of rural medicine and rural communities.”
Alberta’s Minister of Health, the Hon. Fred Horne, Alberta Chambers’ Board President, Tim Bolton, and Dr. Steed presented the award to Kneehill representatives at the Alberta Chamber’s 2011 Fall Board Meeting.
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