Western Health says it’s speeding up replies to prospective doctors in an effort to recruit them

Western Health is implementing new ideas to make it more responsive to new doctors trying to land jobs in the region. (CBC)

As doctors speak out about the hurdles they’re facing securing a job in Newfoundland and Labrador, an official with Western Health says the health authority is trying to speed up its replies.

“We’ve changed our recruitment structure where we now have recruiters responsible either for family medicine or for specialists. We’ve changed and set up direct email access that would be checked by any recruiter,” Dr. Dennis Rashleigh, the vice-president responsible for medical services, said Thursday. 

“At times, I guess, the challenge of acute day-to-day staffing can impact the ability to respond in as timely a manner as desired. But my goal … is that we will respond to someone who reaches out to us within 48 hours.” 

Physicians in Newfoundland and Labrador have complained about their challenges getting job offers to practice within the province.

Rashleigh was responding to a CBC interview with Dr. John Kielty last week, in which Kielty said the province’s health authorities are slow moving when it comes to making job offers to new doctors. 

At the time, Kielty said he felt like prospective doctors were having to beg for jobs. 

“I think the culture isn’t as welcoming. They’re not advocating for these people as they should be,” he said.

He also said those doctors leave the province because they simply haven’t received a job offer at all.

“When we see good people going elsewhere for very simple reasons, like not getting an offer in time, it’s very frustrating,” he said.

Dr. Dennis Rashleigh, VP of medical services for Western Health, says the health authority has adjusted its recruitment structure to make it more responsive to new doctors. (Cherie Wheeler/CBC)

Rashleigh said if a doctor approached him today with an inquiry about family medicine, they would have the job. 

He said delays can come from doctors searching for salaried positions but there’s a limited number to go around. He added that fee-for-service options also take time because the health authority tries to pair doctors with other practices or partners. 

“Anytime we hear comments like what Dr. Kielty had to say, we need to look at the system and say ‘what can we do better?’ I would say yes, there can be improvements,” said Rashleigh. 

“The VPs in medicine, myself included, have been working with the province to try to streamline the signing process or the bursary process.”

Meanwhile, Premier Andrew Furey — who visited British Colombia this week with other premiers to call on the federal government for more funding for health care — said health-care problems aren’t unique to Newfoundland and Labrador. 

The premier told CBC News on Thursday it’s important to have all premiers united.

“When it’s a national crisis, let the federal government be at the table. And right now they haven’t been at the table, and we want them at the table discussing how we can fix this system moving forward,” said Furey. 

“It is not the Newfoundland and Labrador system that is uniquely broken. It is the Canadian health-care system that is broken.”

Furey said he’s optimistic for the future but added it would be a missed opportunity to not reimagine the health-care system coming out of the pandemic.

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