With the recruitment of 25 physicians to Health Sciences North this year, the hospital's chief of staff said he can see the day coming in the not-too-distant future when the hospital is no longer short of physicians.
“There's still a lot of work in family medicine to do, but there will be a point in the future where we'll unfortunately have to say we don't have room for you, and we'll put you on the wait list,” Dr. Chris Bourdon said.
The hospital has reached that point with neurosurgery, he said.
“We couldn't recruit another neurosurgeon,” Bourdon said. “We recruited one last year and we're full now. So if a neurosurgeon knocked on our door, we'd unfortunately have to tell him 'no, we don't have a place.'”
Bourdon said it's been a “banner year” for doctor recruitment. He said the hospital has recruited more than 20 for the past three or four years, but 25 is a high-water mark.
“It's a good news story for our hospital,” he said.
“Despite the doom and gloom and the pressures that we're under in terms of capacity, I think doctors still see the benefit of starting a career here, and there's good work to be had here, and they're willing to help us work on the solutions for a better and ongoing progressive academic health science centre.”
Nearly half of these doctors come from the Northern Ontario School of Medicine's family medicine residency program, although others have come from as far away as Germany, the United States and Vancouver, B.C.
He said it's unlikely any more doctors will move to Sudbury this year, as “the vast majority come in the summer,” but we'll probably see a few more in early 2013.
Of these 25 physicians, 15 are family doctors, five of which are trained as emergency room physicians, he said.
The emergency department has been chronically understaffed by doctors, but this is changing, said Bourdon, the former medical director of this department.
“It's going to go a long way to assisting us to make sure we have enhanced physician coverage in emerg,” he said. “We also anticipate having at least two, if not up to five (emergency physicians), join the group next year. It's been a real good year.”
The rest of the 2012 doctor recruits are various types of specialists, including two medical oncologists, two anaesthetists, a geriatrician and three psychiatrists.
The geriatrician, Dr. Janet McElhaney, is well-known as an expert in her profession. Her recruitment brings the number of geriatricians in Northeastern Ontario to two.
“It's a huge coup,” Bourdon said. “You're going to see a cascade of changes happen with her recruitment. She is at the pinnacle of geriatric care providers. She's an absolute gem as an academic. She does research. She does it all.”
McElhaney's recruitment also makes it more likely that other world-class specialists will consider making Greater Sudbury home.
“Someone breaks the seal and people say 'She's going there? Some good things are happening in Sudbury at Health Sciences North, so we're going to relocate there as well,'” Bourdon said. “It'll create these little pockets of specialized expertise, and help us grow in an academic sense.”
He said the hospital is in the process of recruiting “another huge academic.”
“I'm not at liberty to say (who it is), because she's leaving a significant academic centre in North America, and she hasn't really told her employer yet,” Bourdon said. “I don't want to put that in jeopardy for her.”
A few “doctor couples” are also looking at relocating to Sudbury, he said.
“I just got news yesterday that the husband of someone we've recruited who's a pathologist has internal medicine training,” Bourdon said.
“They likely won't come until 2013, because they need to clear things up at their current workplaces. They're at major academic centres.”
Another couple — an internal medicine specialist and an ear, throat and nose specialist — are also hoping to work at Health Sciences North.
“They're both from northeastern Ontario, but they're not finished their training until June 2013.”
Over the coming year, Health Sciences North will focus on recruiting internal medicine specialists, Bourdon said. He said the hospital could probably use six more of these specialists.
The hospital will attempt to attract these physicians by “promoting the product we have and making sure they understand it's an academic centre.”
The Northern Ontario School of Medicine also has an internal medicine residency training program, but the first residents haven't yet graduated, Bourdon said.
“As that starts to complete its five-year cycle, we're going to see some of them returning to work here,” he said.