By Kayla Haggett 
TRENTON – Quinte West’s physician recruitment and retention committee is off to a fast start, council heard Monday.
Wendy Warner, executive director of the Trenton Memorial Hospital Foundation , presented an update to Quinte West city council  Monday night on the success the committee has had so far in helping to bring more doctors to the area.
Part of what the committee has done is create a database of local physicians. Warner said they’ve currently identified 143 physicians in the area, many of which are family doctors. They’ve also created a database of locums – that is, temporary physicians filling in for others – that have worked at Trenton Memorial Hospital in the past two years.
She said this is key, as they previously didn’t have access to these names and had no way to reach out to these individuals to try and get them to return to the area.
“Until the city of Quinte West and the foundation created the partnership, we weren’t tracking these people. So we really weren’t welcoming them to our community or giving ourselves an opportunity to sell our community to them,” Warner told council.
One of the ways they’ve been selling the community is by attending job fairs to try and attract future graduates to the area.
They went to McMaster University in January, where Warner said they were able to have discussions with 25 students about Quinte West and opportunities for work within the area. Many of these individuals were from small communities in eastern Ontario and Warner said that they expressed interest in returning to small communities to find work after graduation.
“They had heard of Quinte West, they had about Trenton Memorial Hospital, it was extremely positive,” said Warner about the discussions. “It was actually quite surprising the number of students we saw that were from small communities in eastern Ontario that don’t want to practice in the large GTA centre, they want another small home.”
Warner said they have plans to follow up with these individuals, and that four of the people they talked to were very strong prospects – including three family doctors and one OB/GYN.
She also spoke about the success of their Christmas reception, which was attended by eleven physicians, including two that expressed interest in remaining in the area long-term.
According to Warner, the doctors in attendance said that holding events like the reception is important to create a community amongst physicians in the area.
“They would like to see us continue to create a physician community. They really felt like there wasn’t a strong physician community for them at this point in time and that this is something that we can do for them to help with retention. So we’ll continue to work forward on that,” said Warner.
The presentation was well-received by city councillors, who congratulated Warner on the success of the committee thus far.
“This committee hasn’t been around for very long, and to see what you’ve already accomplished is like a miracle for us,” said Councillor Sally Freeman.
Mayor Jim Harrison also highlighted the importance of having a committee dedicated to physician recruitment.
“I think the big difference, as far as I’m concerned, is the fact that we’re so well-focused. We’re focused and QHC is also focused on recruitment, and I think we’re putting out an image that it’s a great place to work, it’s a great place to live, a positive image,” said Harrison.
Moving forward, the committee has plans to hire a coordinator and is currently conducting interviews to fill the position. They’re also planning to attend job fairs throughout the rest of the year, including ones at the University of Toronto and Queen’s University.
A website for the committee is currently in development, and they have already created a Facebook page that they’re using to connect with prospective physicians.