Kneehill council hears money doesn’t necessarily attract doctors

Written by Stu Salkeld

Kneehill County council heard the local physician recruitment organization is tweaking one of the carrots on a stick which it uses to attract medical professionals to the community. The physician recruitment change was discussed at the July 25 regular meeting of council.

Councillors read a notice from the physician recruitment and retention task force that a monetary incentive offered to new physicians working in the Three Hills and Kneehill County community will be reduced so the money can be used for other strategies.

“Administration received a letter from the Kneehill Medical Services Retention & Recruitment Task Force (KMSR&R Task Force) proposing to amend the incentive provided to new physicians,” stated the memo presented by Carolyn Van der Kuil, legislative services co-ordinator.

“Currently when a new physician starts their practice at the Kneehill Medical Clinic they receive $50,000 from the KMSR&R Task Force which is paid out over a period of three years if the physician meets the specific requirements set out in their agreement.

“The new proposal will result in a $25,000 reduction and the payment period will be shortened…$5,000 relocation incentive, $10,000 upon completion of probation and $10,000 at the end of 24 months.

“The KMSR&R Task Force terms of reference lay out the funding model for this initiative. Each participating municipality pays $2 per capita. Kneehill County’s budget for this project in 2023 is $10,070,” added the memo.

Coun. Ken King, who is one of council’s representatives to the task force, stated the organization was originally under the impression the committee needed council approval to change financial incentives to physicians, but it turns out the task force has the authority to make such changes. However, the task force was curious about how council felt about this change.

King further stated the task force made this change because it found that financial incentives aren’t necessarily that effective in attracting physicians, regardless of the size of the incentive.

He added the task force felt it might be more effective to redirect some of that money to other recruitment and retention strategies.

Coun. Faye McGhee asked about the length of a new physician’s probation and when the money is paid out.

King answered probation and pay-out depends on whether a physician is Canadian-educated or foreign-educated; foreign-educated physicians have a longer probation period.

During discussion King also noted that all physicians must sign a service agreement with the Three Hills Medical Clinic before they’re eligible for this incentive program.

“So there is an agreement by the doctors to provide medical services through the clinic prior to our bonus and incentives taking place,” said King.

McGhee responded she liked the proposed change as it seemed a more effective way to use the funds.

Coun. Wade Christie asked about hospital privileges while a physician is on probation.

King responded it was his understanding that once a physician begins work at the clinic they also function in the hospital.

Councillors unanimously accepted the task force report as information.

Stu Salkeld
Local Journalism Initiative reporter
ECA Review

About the author

Stu Salkeld

Stu Salkeld, who has upwards of 28 years of experience in the Alberta community newspaper industry, is now covering councils and other news in the Stettler region and has experience working in the area as well.

He has joined the ECA Review as a Local Journalism Initiative Journalist.

Stu earned his two-year diploma in print journalism from SAIT in Calgary from 1993 to ’95 and was raised in Oyen, Alta., one of the communities within the ECA Review’s coverage area.