Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Cold Lake contemplates interest-free loan to attract doctors

For the Lakeland Regional.

Cold Lake Mayor Craig Copeland
File Photo
The City of Cold Lake is contemplating offering a $50,000 interest-free loan to doctors moving to the area.

During the Corporate Priorities Committee meeting on May 17, Chief Administration Officer Kevin Nagoya presented a list of 16 municipalities around the province and the strategies they have used to attract doctors to their jurisdictions.

Cold Lake has not seen a significant increase in doctors since 2006. While new doctors have come in, its only been to replace the physicians leaving the area, rather than add to the overall numbers.

The Cold Lake Healthcare Centre has 24 acute care beds and 31 continuing care beds, and services roughly 36,000 patients a year. Currently the city has 12 doctors and one surgeon. In comparison, the Town of Bonnyville has 21 active physicians.

The city is looking at hiring doctors from both inside and outside of Canada.

“The biggest gap, especially when coming from out of the country but even if they are coming from right out of school, is what revenue or credit rating do they have to be able to actually come to our community?” explained Nagoya. “How much flexibility is there?”

Nagoya showed a number of programs conducted throughout the province. Incentives range from Bonnyville, which won an award for their program in 2015 with the creation of a $150,000 pot for loans for doctors, to Beaverlodge, which waives municipal and education levy taxes for five years and kicks in a $5,000 relocation bonus.

The report also discussed Whitecourt, which provides a $50,000 interest-free loan for new doctors. This model appealed to council the most.

“That way they can spend it any which way, shape, or form they need,” pointed out Nagoya. “It would be tailored to what those doctors need. Once they get their feet on the ground, then the payments can start happening.”

Nagoya added that when a doctor begins his or her practice, it can take up to a year before they begin to actually collect revenue to support themselves.

“This would assist in that transition. It gives the doctor a connection to the community.”

Mayor Craig Copeland said that he had spoken to several doctors in the area. They said the interest-free loan would suit their needs the best.

“What that money does is help them put a down payment on a house,” pointed out Copeland. “You want a doctor to have a house in your community. It provides a bit more stability that they aren’t going to leave on you.”

Copeland added that a doctor immigrating to Canada could be looking at $10,000 to $20,000 in licensing fees to practice in Canada.

Nagoya also mentioned that the charity Hearts for Healthcare currently donates up to $20,000 to new physicians who move to Cold Lake. The package is catered to the individual doctor’s needs, which has included covering apartment and car rentals as well as clinical fees.

The Alberta Medical Association offers an incentive payment of up to $60,000 for doctors moving to northern communities in the province, as well as a number of smaller reimbursement and subsidy programs to help get their practices off the ground.

In spite of all the incentives currently available, council agreed unanimously that the onus is on the city to attract doctors to the community.

“All these communities have gone into the marketplace with their tools,” commented Coun. Bob Buckle. “The city should step up to the plate and put up some money of its own.”

It is estimated it will cost around $250,000 to start the program. A proposed bylaw is expected to be put before council by July.

No comments:

Post a Comment