By Erika Mathieu
Sunny South News
Picture Butte’s mayor, said the Town has, “a lot of work to do,” to get a partnership with Rural Health Professions Action Plan (RPAP) off the ground.
During the Oct. 24 regular council meeting, Lynsey Robinson of the southern Alberta RPAP gave a delegation, providing information on how the RPAP program can provide resources to better equip municipalities in ongoing attraction and retention efforts for health care professionals.
Funded through Ministry of Health, RPAP is given money and resources to support retaining and attracting rural health care providers, supporting health care providers through profession development, and liaising with various committees and AHS, while also providing a wide variety of programs.
Robinson said she currency works with six attraction and retention committees in southern Alberta, including in Pincher Creek, Vulcan, Claresholm, Milk River, Bassano, and working to “extend that,”
“We primarily deal with attraction and retention,” and said the scope of that role includes, strategies to bring new people top town, helping to highlight community value, and sharing community profiles with Alberta Health Services (AHS) for their direct work in recruitment.”
Robinson said, “most of our committees, surprisingly, are actually focused on the retention side of things,” and said, “the retention piece really aids with the attraction piece because if people really like living and working here, they’re going to express that to people that are considering coming.”
RPAP is not a part of active recruitment however, which falls under the perview of AHS.
“We work really closely with a AHS services medical affairs and talent acquisition while they are working on recruiting. So we have a regular meetings with them.”
Robinson said RPAP’s work is driven by community as well as by the health care providers.
In April 2022, RPAP conducted a survey to health care providers across the province. Among the 500 responses, doctors, nurses and other health care professionals gave feedback on the top reasons they stayed working rurally. According to the survey, Robinson said the top factor for moving to and staying in a community was based on how welcoming the community is.
“For doctors, things like financial incentives are actually quite low on that list,” and added, “I think it shows that the community is really trumps a lot of that financial peace for some people, these days.”
Another support initiative through RPAP is their “Let’s go rural ” program, which is aimed at high school and post-secondary students and allows students to experience hands-on skills as well as virtual sessions with health care professionals to get a better sense of what a career in health care looks like and how to get there. Furthermore, RPAP also runs “discovering rural” programming whereby post-secondary students are placed in a community for a weekend-long “trial-run” of sorts, so students can better experience the offerings of a community over the course of a few days.
Physician awards and recognition plays a role in showing gratitude for health care professionals,
Robinson asked council what kind of initiatives are currently ongoing in the Town of Picture Butte. Mayor Cathy Moore said,” we are starting at ground zero. Both doctors have told us they are ready to retire and they have given us a five-year notice. That was two years ago, so we have three years to find replacements.”
In addition to being notified of the pending retirement of two primary care physicians, residents were also informed earlier this year that the Ambulatory Care Clinic (ACC) would be permanently closed as of Oct. 15, 2023. a subsequent engagement session with AHS on decision to close the ACC at the Piyami Health Centre prompted larger discussions over the future of health care for town residents.
Robinson said RPAP is also able to share with the Town an attraction and retention toolkit, which includes a document which provides guidelines for committees, “from how to start a committee and what that should look like, all the way until like those concrete ideas (such as ) funding that you can apply for through RPAP.”
With respect to how Picture Butte High School may be brought into the fold, Robinson said an expression of interest goes out each spring and interested committees can apply through RPAP for the opportunity to engage local students in the programming geared toward the high school programs. After RPAP reviews applications, selections are made for the coming year.
Mayor Moore posed the question, “how soon could we start working with you?”
”Right away; we can start as quickly as you’d like,” and added committee members often include representation from the municipal government, site managers or clinic managers,
“We have a lot of work to do,” Mayor Moore said to council.
Later in the meeting, a date was set for the first health professional recruitment and retention committee meeting, which will call on interested parties to attend.
CAO Keith Davis said, “in the bylaw, we’ve got what the makeup of the recruitment should look like,” which includes two members of town council one physician representative one health professional representative, three members living in Picture Butte, some of whom would be voting members, and some non-voting members.
The first meeting is set to take place on Nov. 21st at 7 p.m.