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With demand for primary care on the rise, communities are taking an active role in working with partners to attract new doctors. Learn how Chilliwack’s collaborative efforts successfully brought new family doctors to their region.

Like many communities across the province, Chilliwack needed more family doctors to meet increasing demand from its growing population. To help attract doctors who are the right fit to live and work in the region for the long term, Chilliwack Economic Partners Corporation, an economic development organization funded by the City of Chilliwack, partners with the Chilliwack Division of Family Practice to recruit just the right candidates.

“We strive to recruit doctors who want to build their lives here,” says Katrina Bepple, executive director for the Chilliwack Division of Family Practice, which represents family doctors in Chilliwack, Agassiz, Seabird Island, and Hope. “Patients benefit from having an ongoing relationship with a doctor or family practice office, so our priority is to attract doctors who will want to stay.”

The key, says Bepple, is to “attract the doctors and retain the families.” Questions relating to lifestyle, job opportunities for spouses, housing, and schools top the list of priorities prospective family doctors ask about when considering a move. As those topics are beyond what retiring physicians looking to sell their practices or recruiting clinics can answer, the Division stepped in to create what it calls “red-carpet recruitment,” a process which relies on active community participation for success. After careful screening, doctors considering a move to the Chilliwack region are provided with not only detailed information about community life but also personalized, guided tours.

“We know our community really well, right down to the distinct characteristics of different neighbourhoods,” says Netty Tam, manager of Business Development for Chilliwack Economic Partners Corporation. “The Division provides the medical side of the tour: the hospital, the clinic or practice, as well as answers any questions about working as a local family doctor. What we do is showcase all our community has to offer to both the doctor and their family from a lifestyle perspective.”

“It was so welcoming,” says Dr Dominick Black, a family doctor who chose to relocate with his wife from just outside London, England. “We knew a bit about the city from a doctor friend who was already living here. The president of the Chilliwack Economic Partners, Brian Coombes, took us to lunch and then spent time driving us around and showing us the city. The Division was also fantastic, showing us the primary care clinic in the hospital where I’d be working and even finding us a house to rent.”

To help those considering a move to Chilliwack, the City of Chilliwack and Chilliwack Economic Partners created a website to provide information on moving to, living and working in the region. The Chilliwack Division of Family Practice’s website offers complementary information aimed specifically at family doctors and nurse practitioners. PracticeinBC.ca, developed with funding from Doctors of BC and the BC Government, offers a one-stop information source for doctors locally and around the world who are considering a career in BC.

“Collaborating with the city on recruitment has made a tremendous difference in attracting family doctors who will want to call our region home,” says Katrina Bepple. “We are seeing results that further enhance the appeal of this beautiful place we call home.”

“Everyone here is incredibly friendly and supportive,” says Dr. Black. “My wife and I love it to bits.”

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