Canada HealthCare Blog

Interview with David Common, Toronto’s CBC Metro Morning host


Audio Transcript

Let's turn now to the announcement on Friday, the federal government giving Ontario $3.1 billion in healthcare funding amid staffing shortages. Part of the agreement says that Ontario has to create new primary healthcare teams.

That includes family doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, and social workers. Our next guest has some ideas on how to achieve this. Phil Martin is the CEO of Physicians For You. It is a company that recruits doctors to come to work in Canada.

Phil, good morning.

Good morning. Nice to speak to you this morning.

Well, good to have you. How do you think the province should spend some of this money in order to achieve that goal of getting more healthcare staff in this country?

It needs to start doing physician recruitment properly and how it's done around the rest of the world. I've done physician recruitment globally for the last 18 years, started off in the UK, then in Australia.

And I think Canada, sadly, is a bit behind other countries. We're about probably 10 years behind other countries with regards to physician recruitment and how it's done. And I think we could do a lot better if third party recruitment and companies like ours were more acceptable in the country, whereas at the moment, I don't think they are.

I think people lean more towards government recruitment agencies, which unfortunately, we're in a bit of a health care crisis still. And there's easy routes that could be done, I think, to make it a lot better than it currently is. As a business, we've never been so busy.

You say 10 years behind. I mean, what's the measurement there? How do you figure something out?

Yeah, absolutely. This is just my opinion. When you go to other countries like Australia or the UK, you'll see that physician recruitment is very, very standard over there. You'll have hospitals, doctors, companies, governments that will only work through third party recruitment agencies. Whereas in Canada, it's just not set up that way. There's very few companies out there in Canada that are actually doing physician recruitment because they're not worked with or as acceptable as they are in other countries.

And what is it that you do different?

What we do is a full end to end process. I mean, Canada, sadly, a wonderful country, wonderful people, but we're probably one of the hardest countries in the world for doctors to get through.

I mean, every year there's constant changes that make it harder and harder for the business to come here. Canada doesn't have a problem because doctors don't want to come here. Canada has a problem because they make it so complicated for doctors to come here.

There's so much bureaucracy, so many layers of challenges for the doctors that they just go elsewhere. You know, places like Australia, New Zealand, the Middle East are all very attractive for physicians and they're getting calls weekly from places all around the world offering them positions to come and work for them.

So, Canada is a wonderful country, but sadly, we just don't make it easy for the physicians. I had one UK doctor say to me once, he said, it's like they almost want to keep us out because it's just so challenging getting through the process.

And that's where we help. We guide them and assist them through all the stages to get here and set them up for success.

Recruitment is one issue. What about retention? How can an agency like yours help with retention?

We have a number of doctors either reducing their hours or saying, I'm out, it's just too exhausting. Oh, massively, I think retention, I mean, that's one of the key things for us, you know, retention, because again, you wanna set the position up for long-term success, you wanna set the clinic and the hospital up for long -term success, and you wanna have that continuity of care for the patients.

You know, one of the things that we do as a business is to really make the doctors that are coming into the country just aware of the differences. I mean, Canada has very easily voted one of the best countries in the world to live, but the medical system is very different to when they're coming here, the billing system, the prescription, the protocols, the way we do things are all very different.

So what we do as an agency is make sure that we really let our doctors know that those first six months are gonna be very challenging for them. You know, they're away from their family, they're away from their friends, they're away from their support network.

And one of the biggest things that I think helps the doctors when they're first coming into the country is support. You know, they have good support from the people that help them sort of bed in, get used to the systems, get used to the clinic, get used to how things work.

That's what sets them up for long-term success, because those first six months, no matter which part of Canada you go to, no matter which payment model you choose, because obviously there's lots of different payment models in Ontario, for example, the more chance you've got of that long-term success.

As a recruitment agency, our job is to set them up, not only for the duration of that initial contract, but hopefully much longer, so they stay here with their families, because as I say to the doctors, once you come here, you're settled and set up, and you won't want to go home, it's truly the best life you can ever experience.

You say that the system currently leans towards government recruitment of physicians and other healthcare professionals, and less towards agencies like yours, a private recruitment service. But you obviously do have some business.

Who are you recruiting for?

Oh, we've never been so busy. We've never been so busy. I always think we're like lawyers. People use us when they don't have another choice. And it's a shame. We've got such an excellent job to do. I mean, I start work at 2:00 in the morning. Every single day I work, 15 hours a day I work every weekend because physician recruitment is a full-time job. It's not a job you can do Monday to Friday, 8:30 to 4:30. It takes a lot of handholding to get the doctors through the various stages, various steps, and you have to be a specialist in it. I mean, there's a lot of people that are recruiting that are full-time doctors doing recruitment in their spare time, or they've got other hats they wear in their clinic or hospital. As I always say, I can fix my own car, but I'm not a mechanic.

So are you recruiting for a family doctor in the GTA? Are you recruiting for a small service in Northern Ontario that has perpetual challenges or everything in between? All over.

I mean, we help any clinic or hospital that is keen for our assistance, but we're also very selective where we can bring on jobs because, again, we work in the second largest country in the world. And what we found quite quickly is there's only certain places doctors want to go. The GTA is really popular. The large urban centers around Ontario are really popular.

The rural locations don't get as much interest in all honesty, but they definitely do offer good incentive. Some people just want that high quality of life, high quality of living, all the little benefits you can get when you do work in all the rural areas.

But I've been working physician recruitment solely in Canada for the last 14 years. Our company has never been so busy. We've never seen so many doctors wanting to come through. And I think that's down to really two reasons that I put it. One is that it's suddenly becoming easier for doctors to get here. I think there's so much pressure now on the government to make changes, to make it easier to break down all these hurdles and barriers they've put into place. And I think in addition to that, the countries that the doctors are coming from have got worse.

So you might think Canada's got a bad health care system, but it's worse elsewhere. And the reality is there's no such thing as an easy job. People can have a stressful job, busy job wherever you work in the world. But the one thing Canada has in it's going for it is that you get the quality of life. As one of my UK doctors said to me once, he said, I see the same amount of patients I saw in England, he said, but they're nicer. I get more money. And at the end of the day, I get to walk on the beach and watch the sunset with my wife. It's not a bad life.

There you have it. Phil, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Nice to meet you. All the best. Bye-bye.

That's Phil Martin, who's the CEO of Physicians For You. 

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