The Prairie Mountain Health Region has as many medical positions to fill as there are graduates coming out of the University of Manitoba med school.
In an attempt to capture as many grads as possible, the Brandon Regional Health Centre hosted a student rural interest group, out of U of M, to a two-day hands-on workshop over the weekend.
"It’s an opportunity for regions to connect with the group and show the group what opportunities there are in rural Manitoba," said Dr. Shaun Gauthier, vice-president of medical and diagnostics with Prairie Mountain Health.
Second-year U of M med students worked made casts, sutured pig skin and practiced catching newborn babies at stations throughout the hospital.
While there’s always need for more general practitioners in Brandon, the "critical" needs lie south of the city, Gautier said.
"There are several areas that have a definite need," he said. "Our most critical shortage right now that’s causing service disruption where we’ve had to shift services to maintain an open ER is along Hwy 3 (east of Killarney)."
To lure future Manitoba doctors to rural areas, there are financial assistance programs offered by the province’s regional health authorities and Manitoba Health, because once they leave the province, new doctors aren’t likely to return.
"There’s a fairly significant fee structure differential for working in the north," he said.
Also, in return for a commitment early on in school to work with a regional health authority, it will pay for a percentage of the student’s tuition and other costs, which Gautier said works out to roughly one year of financial assistance for each committed year of work.
"It’s just one additional tool we have to work with," he said.
That’s substantial help, considering there are reports of medical school debt loads higher than $100,000.
"It is one part of our ongoing physician recruitment and retention strategies within Prairie Mountain Health and an event that achieves success with the support of our existing physicians, staff, Manitoba’s Office of Rural and Northern Health and volunteers," Gautier said.
"Our aim is to show that rural Manitoba is a great place to live, work and have fun."
Meanwhile, the province announced in November a mobile clinic will make stops throughout Westman to address health needs in the region.
The RV-turned-doctor’s office now travels to several communities in the region, including Binscarth, McAuley, San Clara and Birdtail Sioux, Tootinaowaziibeeng and Keeseekoowenin Ojibway First Nations to address a lack of doctors which has meant ERs are shared between multiple facilities.