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Council discusses incentives for psychologist recruitment

The City of Cold Lake will look into options for recruitment incentives for doctors who specialize in psychiatric or mental health care.

The City of Cold Lake will look into options for recruitment incentives for doctors who specialize in psychiatric or mental health care.

After hearing the need from Supporting Wellness and Growth in March, and their ask of $75,000 to help cover the cost of travel expenses from their home base in Calgary, council declined the request. Instead, they are considering other options, including subsidized transportation for healthcare professionals and possible recruitment incentive programs.

On Tuesday, April 18, city council decided that subsidizing healthcare professionals for the cost of travel from outside of the community isn't the route to take, however, they do want to help fill the need.

“It‘s not so you can just come in, do business and then leave. It's so you can come in and be part of the community. I appreciate what has been done, and we can see that psychiatric care within the city, and that higher level of mental healthcare, is really important and really needed in this community,” said Coun. Chris Vining. “I think what we really need to do is come up with an active recruiting method.”

Council's looking to recruit fully licensed psychologists and psychiatrists who can provide services within the Cold Lake community, all they need to do is provide incentive.

Vining said, “I think if we are going to be using our money, I don't think a travel policy is what we should be looking at. I think it should be relocation and establishment… let's get people here to set up practice.”

What council needs to know now, is what it would take to bring these services to Cold Lake, should someone show interest in moving their practice or starting a new practice in the area.

At this time, the city offers an incentive to local physicians practicing in Cold Lake with a line of credit of up to $20,000. Hearts for Healthcare, a local organization that aids in the recruitment of doctors, also provides $20,000 in financial assistance for medical professionals transitioning to Cold Lake.

The city has also offered other incentives in the past. For example, the Cold Lake Radiology Clinic and the Cold Lake Medical Clinic both received $30,000 in start-up funding.

“We provide help for housing, we provide help for start-up clinics, all kinds of things here when someone is willing to move here and do it,” explained Coun. Vicky Lefebvre.

Coun. Duane Lay agreed, adding if there is a full time need in the community, than the service should be available.

“It's not helping Cold Lake grow as a community if you are flying someone in,” he said. “Maybe we need to look at something similar to what we did with the doctors, with that incentive for them to come here and stay here for a couple of years.”

Lefebvre noted that there are organizations within the community providing these services, both for-profit and non-profit. Unfortunately, these services have a long waiting list.

“We are not here to do Alberta Health Services' work, but I do believe we are here to help our citizens,” she stressed. “If there are ways we can find to assist them and help them get the professionals here, to stay and work here, I think that we can assist. Not necessarily continually fund, but we can find ways of making things work within our community by working with our partners or whatever it takes to try and get the best for our citizens.”