It's not a secret that some communities in Southern Manitoba are facing challenges due to a shortage of physicians. Over the last several months, or even the past couple of years, Terry Penner, the Executive Director of the C.W. Wiebe Medical Centre (C.W.), says the clinic in Winkler has been impacted by this challenging trend.
"Just to give you a sense of what that actually looks like here for C.W., we had three family physicians who left the clinic back in the spring/summer of 2022. And as well we had one of our surgeons who left in November of 2022, and we're looking at two more that will be leaving by May of 2023. So that's a total of 6 medical professionals that will have left C.W. in about a year or so," Penner explained.
Addressing some of the losses, clinic Executive Director, Terry Penner, says they were very happy to welcome Rachel Wiens, a physician assistant in September of 2022, as well as Doctor Kyle Winning, a new family physician who started at the C.W. last month.
“But having said that, obviously there's still a deficit there, and we're continuing to look at different types of recruitment strategies to try and bring medical professionals to the area," said Penner. "More recently, we're considering engaging the services of a physician recruitment service. These people have much better connections to the international market, so to speak for physicians, and we're hoping that they can help us, you know, bring in some more doctors into the area.”
The clinic has also been in conversations with Mark Sawatsky, the Business Development & Immigration Officer for the Winkler-Stanley Economic Development Corporation, added Penner. He notes they've been working with Sawatzky to strategize to come up with different ways of attracting physicians to the area.
Penner said the immediate goal is to replace the doctors that have left.
"We also know is the statistics are showing that medical professionals due to the age demographic, they're going to be reducing their practice, or perhaps retiring, leaving the practice in fairly significant numbers in the coming years. And so we think we have to keep recruitment as the top priority for the clinic for the foreseeable future just to make sure that we keep as many as we can here, and end up adding hopefully more physicians rather than losing some."
As their recruitment efforts continue, Penner added, bringing new doctors into the area is going to require the support of the entire Community. He said that is something the clinic can't do all by itself, and the physicians can't do it all by themselves. "It does take the greater community and support from everyone to help make that happen."
"I think when any new people come to the area, and we've had lots of immigration over the years, but there have been some very intentional efforts made to make people feel welcome... I think this the same kind of approach needs to happen for physicians as well."