Manitoba has one of the biggest physician shortages in Canada, particularly in many rural, northern and indigenous communities.

That is according to Dr. Candace Bradshaw, President of Doctors Manitoba. On Friday, the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce and Doctors Manitoba released a joint report with recommendations to attract and retain more physicians to rural and northern Manitoba. The recommendations come from stakeholder feedback from a rural health summit held in September and are supported by research and expert consultation.

"It must be a top priority to recruit and retain more doctors, and this is going to require an 'all-hands' approach if Manitoba is going to succeed in an intensely competitive national and global environment," notes Dr. Bradshaw. "We owe it to Manitobans to work together to get them the care they need close to home."

The report includes five recommendations with supporting actions to recruit and retain more doctors. First of all, it suggests recruiting more physicians by expanding training, streamlining recruitment efforts and identifying financial supports for transition to practice.

A second recommendation is to find efficiencies in order to free up physicians' time for more patient care, including by making it easier for physicians to consult other physicians to guide care.

The report also suggests addressing physician burnout, which is the single biggest risk to physicians leaving practice. This should be done by reducing administrative burden, reviewing on-call expectations and improving physician engagement.

A fourth recommendation is for better peer support and mentorship and to assist with physician infrastructure costs and enhancing the physician retention program.

And finally, it is recommended they support the role that local communities and chambers of commerce can play in recruiting and retaining physicians and their families. 

The rural health summit was attended by more than 100 participants, including physicians, health system executives and administrators and community and business leaders. 

"Accessible health care is important to all Manitobans, including our members, and reliable, quality care is essential to rural and northern economies," says Chuck Davidson, Manitoba Chambers of Commerce President & CEO. "Health care is indeed an economic issue because, without a strong health care system, we simply can't support the attraction of new residents, we can't promote tourism with confidence, and we restrict Manitobans' ability to age in place."

The report has been submitted to the Minister of Health for the government's consideration. Both Doctors Manitoba and the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce have offered to advise the government on the implementation, including identifying appropriate organizations to lead each of the recommendations and actions.