Mapleton council approves $10,000 for health care staff recruitment

MAPLETON – Local organizations are making steps towards meeting the significant need for rural health care staff. 

On April 30, Mapleton council agreed to provide another $10,000 to help the Mapleton-Minto Health Professional Recruitment Committee attract and retain health care workers, after a delegation from four committee members.  

The township has provided the committee with $10,000 annually since 2022, and voted unanimously in favour of doing so again this year. 

In a report to council  in December the committee stated “this past year continues to be challenging for our rural hospital staff and physicians as we experience a high need for health care staff.” 

But during the delegation, committee chair and Minto Mapleton Family Health Team  (MMFHT) nurse practitioner Shirley Borges said things have changed significantly – in a good way – since December. 

The committee has made lots of progress in “encouraging medical trainees to come and work and live in our communities,” said North Wellington Health Care recruiter and Wellington Health Care Alliance communications manager Alison Armstrong.  

“But what we are finding … is that trainees are finishing up their training and then they want to go locum (go to different areas and try out communities), or they want to become hospitalists” (physicians who only work inside hospitals).  

And Canada at-wide is facing a health care shortage, she added. That’s why the committee is marketing to international providers, particularly in the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States. 

“We are really looking at trying to get Canadians that are trained overseas to come back home,” Armstrong said, as well as connecting with British, Australian and American physicians who are considering moving to Canada. 

“The UK right now is very interested in Canada, and especially Ontario,” Armstrong noted, and she will be presenting to about 60 British physicians soon about the Minto-Mapleton practice model “and what we have to offer.” 

North Wellington Health Care Corporation chief of staff and Mapleton Health Centre family physician Chris Peterkin described recent successes with the local residency program.  

After not having any residents for between four and six months, she said the centre now has an “almost full” roster, with four out of six spots filled. 

She said residents are looking for flexibility, guaranteed housing and a supportive work environment, so “we’ve been very intentional in our marketing campaign in sharing exactly what we have to offer in this area.” 

Peterkin said officials are also working towards launching a teaching site in Palmerston, which they are hopeful will open next year.   

Nurse practitioners

It’s an exciting time for nurse practitioners “both provincially and nationally,” said MMFHT nurse practitioner and Nurse Practitioners Association of Ontario primary care director Jody Colwill, “because we are being recognized as a unique position for filling gaps in care as autonomous practitioners.” 

MMFHT received expansion support from Ontario Health this year, and hired two nurse practitioners, a registered practical nurse, and a receptionist with the funding. MMFHT was the only applicant in Wellington or Waterloo to be approved for the funding.  

Nurse practitioner Becky Bell was set to start seeing new patients at the Clifford clinic this week, and a nurse practitioner, a registered nurse and a receptionist will join the Harriston clinic soon, Borges said. 

“The whole idea around this is to help the many people in our area that don’t have access to primary care … especially those people that perhaps have a provider far away, and they’re coming to our emerg department to receive their primary care services,” Borges said. 

“The idea is to be able to attach a nurse practitioner to these patients so that they can receive access to care in their own communities.” 

“Our team getting expansion funding allotted specifically for nurse practitioners is actually really forward thinking from our government,” Colwill said. 

“And I think that the fact that Minto-Mapleton has really worked hard to be a leader in maximizing the utilization of nurse practitioners locally is unique to our area – unique to our county. 

“Not all teams are using their nurse practitioners to their full scope.” 

Colwill said she repeatedly hears from students how supportive the MMFHT is for nurse practitioners, “and sadly that is a bit of a unique circumstance that they don’t get that at every placement. So I think that speaks volumes to our team.” 

At the end of student placement at MMFHT they complete a survey that includes the question “Would you consider working here, if we had funding?” Colwill said. 

She read the most recent student’s response, which reiterated how unique the MMFHT is for how much it values nurse practitioners. 

“Having a community that values nurse practitioners is making people want to work here,” Colwill said. 

Limited space

Moving forward, Borges noted “there is no capacity to bring in new patients, or in essence new providers” to the Mapleton health centre due to the limited space there, something she said she’s certain the committee will have conversations with council about in the future. 

“We look forward to working with you on this solution,” Borges said.