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Manitoba wants 150 new family doctors for the province, and recruitment specialists to find them

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Shared Health is looking for outside help to address the severe physician shortage in Manitoba.

The organization that co-ordinates health care in Manitoba is seeking as many as three external firms to recruit an additional 150 family physicians to the province: up to 50 each in Winnipeg; the northern health region and Churchill; and the rest of rural Manitoba.

“Evolving population health needs, systemic issues, changes in how new medical graduates want to practice, and an increasing proportion of the physician workforce approaching retirement have all contributed to a need to increase the number of family physicians practicing in Manitoba,” states the request for proposals, issued last Friday.

The document said the physicians recruited to Manitoba would remain in the community for a minimum of four years.

The recruited physicians will work in areas “where access to a family physician is currently limited,” a spokesperson added.

Shared Health is not responsible for physician recruitment — which is often supported by various regional health authorities — but the organization issued the RFP as part of its duty to the “provincial supply chain and procurement on behalf of the health system,” the spokesperson added.

One of the country’s worst shortages

Manitoba has 217 doctors per 100,000 residents, a report released late last year by the Canadian Institute for Health Information says — the third-lowest rate in the country, ahead only of Saskatchewan and Prince Edward Island.

Doctors Manitoba, which advocates on behalf of physicians, has said urgent action is required. It surveyed its own members last year and found 43 per cent of physicians are planning on retiring, leaving the province or reducing clinical hours.

In a statement to CBC News, Dr. Candace Bradshaw, president of Doctors Manitoba, said the organization had called for a provincial physician recruiter following a rural health summit it held last year.

“Right now, other provinces are using recruitment sharks to aggressively approach physicians to showcase their highly competitive funding offers, supportive work models and healthy work-life balances,” Bradshaw’s statement reads in part.

“It’s positive to see Manitoba will have our own dedicated recruiter, but we’re still working with the province on the competitive funding, recruitment and retention incentives and better work environments that will be key to attracting and keeping more doctors to Manitoba.”

On Monday in question period, NDP health critic Uzoma Asagwara chastised the Progressive Conservative government for underspending its budget for physician recruitment and retention, despite the severe need for additional doctors.

Health Minister Audrey Gordon didn’t respond specifically to the question, but instead presented the request for proposals to show the government is working to address the problem.