By Jacob Willis 
BELLEVILLE ‒ Stacey Daub, president & CEO of Quinte Health Care, brought forth a call to action in the midst of what she calls the “biggest health human resource challenge in my lifetime” when she spoke in front of Belleville city council Tuesday, on behalf of health care workers and facilities across the city.
While she opened with a reassurance that this would not be a major request, saying her primary goal was a “renewed partnership” with city councillors, her concern for the state of the primary care sector in Belleville hospitals was evident.
“I’m exceptionally worried about the absence of primary care within our communities,” Daub said. “One of the most notable statistics that I’ve seen in the last year is that for every 100 babies that are born in Belleville General Hospital, 20 of them do not have a doctor. I think as a community we need to do better in terms of supporting them.”
She says she is committed to working in partnership with Belleville city councillors to build a better primary care system in the community.
“It may seem odd coming from a hospital CEO who is not in the role of leading a primary health care team, but I know that if I don’t have a good primary care system by my side, then I can’t get people to our hospitals in the time that I need them too get there, in terms of diagnostic or surgery. We depend on them so much,” Daub continued.
In addition to a request for continued support in growing and strengthening local primary care services (which includes investments in capital development such as the new ICU facility opening soon), Daub advocated for growing a “large and vibrant community of health care heroes.”
This means attracting more doctors, nurses, therapists and technicians into the Belleville area.
“We’re faced with the biggest health human resource challenge in my lifetime,” she said. “COVID was a tipping point, but it was decades in the making.”
“We’re at a very serious crossroads right now in terms of our ability to recruit and retain. For some of us, it’s the simplest things – it’s housing, it’s child care. They love the area, but they need our support to make it a place where they can make a difference.”
The city of Belleville currently has a Family Physician Recruitment Program in place to attract more health care workers to the area. Per their website, the program offers medical students up to $150,000 in return for a five-year commitment to full time service to the community.
In Quinte West, the Docs by the Bay  initiative is also dedicated to physician recruitment and retention. They advertise the Bay of Quinte lifestyle to family physicians and help them get accommodations in the area.
As for an update on the fight against COVID, Daub says she’s “optimistic” about the fourth wave, but urges councillors not to ease up on antiviral measures.
“You only have to look to the west to see how relaxing COVID measures can ravage a health care system,” Daub said, referencing the spikes in coronavirus patients in Alberta. “It’s an ongoing, relentless management of COVID that’s going to help us moving forward.”
Daub notes that it is voluntarily unvaccinated who most require urgent care in hospital.
“As you know, this phase of the pandemic is a wave of unvaccinated people who are coming through the system. (The Quinte Health Care workers) will care for them just as they would care for anyone else,” Daub said.