“I was born in Montreal, but my parents moved back here when I was two years old. I started out as a medical secretary for maybe 12 years and more recently have been working with others trying to attract and retain physicians to this rural area.”
“Before moving here, we were in a building beside the hospital where the medical students and residents would live. We made sure that they had everything they needed for a nice stay, for them to feel welcome. We decorated and renovated apartments. But even though they had a nice place to stay, they couldn’t see themselves working here because they couldn’t see themselves in any of the work environments, and didn’t feel like they belonged. So, I mentioned that to some people from the hospital and they said ‘Well, it’s not in our mandate to try to figure that one out.’ I said ‘Okay, fine.'”
I have always had the attitude of, ‘if there’s a problem we need to find a solution.’ So that started this little project of mine to open a medical clinic.
“I had a good enough relationship with the students coming here and the recruited doctors who would leave, for them to let me know what was wrong. One of the things was – they would come from all over the place; they didn’t know the area, didn’t know how to find a proper medical secretary, how to manage offices and stuff like that. At first I wanted to renovate a building. We approached a builder and he owned the land that is here. This was a perfect spot for a medical clinic because we’re close to the hospital. At first I wasn’t sure – I spoke to some of the doctors to see if they were interested. Initially they were kind of shy about it. Some doctors owned the buildings where they were, and had money invested. But the idea of coming into an office and not having to manage secretaries, order stuff, pay the bills, really, really agreed with them. Here they pay rent which covers the phone, hydro, internet, and the staff. Now their patients have access to the secretaries from 8:00 to 8:00 Monday to Thursday and 8:00 to 4:00 on Fridays. Before, they had restricted hours – they were not open every day of the week and when the office was closed patients couldn’t get in touch with their doctor or leave a message for them. That was a big complaint before. A lot of the doctors are getting close to retirement. Now some of them are thinking of pushing back their retirement because it’s easier now, because they don’t have to deal with that stuff.”
At first I didn’t even talk about this to my husband. I waited until I had several steps figured out before presenting it to him.
“Initially he wasn’t sure and I told him, ‘It’s for our retirement. In 10 years the building is going to be worth more than what we paid for it. So, at least it’s an investment and I’ve created a job for myself.’ And he came on board. He really thought it was a good, good plan. It’s all a personal investment. It’s only my husband and I. The down payment was our house. So, yeah. We’re all in!”
“Last week we had a doctor looking for a new place to work. He came in and was just in awe of the building.”
He said he would never have imagined such a clinic in a small town, with all new equipment.
“Even an examining table for people in wheelchairs. Before becoming a doctor he was an engineer, so he really said ‘Hats off!'”
“Residents are requesting to come here because they are well installed. And they see a lot of stuff. They don’t just come and do office family practice. They go to the hospital and do rounds, they do minor surgeries, they do obstetrics.”
They love it when they come here.
“What are the main reasons that you have trouble attracting doctors, or doctors leave before you want them to?”
“It depends. If they’re the kind of person who just loves the night life in the city, they won’t get that here. But if it’s somebody who loves the outdoor life; that we have plenty of! So it’s best to tell them the truth, and show them what we have to offer. For me – I moved to the city and I came back here to raise my kids. So it really, really depends on the person.”
“I am glad I did this. Just being able to have all of the doctors together… Before, they were all in different offices and they would only see each other in the hospital hallway quickly. Now they joke around together. They have lunch downstairs together. The residents and students see that friendliness, and that helps to entice them to come here. And it feels good to offer this to the population. It helps them feel better when they come in. Yes, they’re going to the doctor, but now it’s in a modern office.”