Rural training critical to keeping doctors

The North Peace Division of Family Practice was invited before the Peace River Regional District board May 28 to present their findings on the Rural Fort St John Residency Program. 

Four residents took part in the program this year, but only two were ready to graduate. Both are staying in Fort St John.

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Resident doctors are eligible for monthly housing stipends up to $5,000 a year, and doctors who decide to stay for a full year receive an additional $10,000. The PRRD offers these funds for up to eight resident doctors per year. More than $55,000 was spent in stipends last year.

“The financial incentive has been huge, but we do need to go to more urban areas for training,” said Dr. Courtney Boyer, one of the graduates.  

Dr. Richard Moody said that rural training remains critical to recruiting and retaining doctors to northeast B.C.

“The costs of these residents coming north are much higher than other areas,” said Moody, noting they also have to travel for training that can’t be provided locally in the Peace.

New residents are expected to arrive next month. Rural-trained doctors are much more likely to stay in rural areas, said Moody.

“The skills for a rural doctor are even wider and more unique, and this is why training is so critical as part of a recruitment and retention strategy for getting physicians to come to the North,” said Moody, noting that family practice is now regarded as a specialty, requiring a minimum of two years post-graduate training.

“It’s very competitive, and there are areas that are much more attractive to young doctors, such as the Lower Mainland and the Okanagan,” Moody said.

Email reporter Tom Summer at tsummer@ahnfsj.ca.

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