Seven family physicians relocate to Abbotsford in 18 months

It’s not news to anyone that recruiting family physicians to BC is important. But how to find those doctors and convince them to move to our province is a mystery - at least to most. The Abbotsford Division of Family Practice has partnered with Fraser Health in the recruitment of seven family physicians to its community in less than 18 months, with several more in progress. People in health care are shocked to learn of that success, especially as the provincial government designated Abbotsford as a high-needs community just a few short years ago. How did the community increase its complement of physicians so quickly?

“Like most Division initiatives, it takes a collaborative effort,” said Dr Holden Chow, President and physician lead of the Abbotsford Division of Family Practice. “Physicians in our Division have been responsive in offering up clinical space, or are ready to relocate to larger clinical space to accommodate another doctor. We’ve also had a number of colleagues express their willingness to sponsor an international physician,” continued Dr Chow.

Many out-of-province physicians apply through HealthMatchBC, an initiative of the provincial government, to move to BC. Applications are received within the ministry and passed along to health authorities. “We’re lucky to have a Division coordinator who sees opportunities and is quick to act,” said Dr Chow. “We realized that many inquiries on relocation in the past were not followed up locally. Through our new relationship with Fraser Health Authority, Michael worked with the local hospital administration to ensure that every lead was followed up.”​

The Division coordinator takes the role of liaison between the health authority and the inquiring physician, and provides information about the Division, the local health care system, and the community. He offers suggestions about hotels to stay, sights to see, and even real estate agents. Most importantly, however, the physicians learn about the community as a place to work and live.

“We have developed a strong partnership with Fraser Health, so we work in collaboration with them and the potential recruits,” said Dr Chow. “Essentially Fraser Health handles the credentialing, and we find sponsors, help the doctors set up a practice and get settled.” Through working with the GPSC, the Division was also able to divide its remaining FPs4BC funding among newly-arrived doctors to help establish their practices.​

“I do think that learning about the Division and how it’s working to make health care better in this community was important,” said Dr Betsie Fourie, a physician who recently relocated from South Africa. “I appreciate that there is a community of like-minded doctors working together. And I like that Vancouver is nearby yet I still live and work in a small, agricultural-based town.”​

So far, physicians have relocated to Abbotsford from South Africa, the United Kingdom, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. “Some countries such as South Africa actively seek to place physicians in Canada,” said Dr Chow. “In fact, a recruiter from South Africa contacted the Division in the hopes of placing more doctors in our community.”

The Abbotsford Division’s board estimates that the community could use at least three to four additional doctors to meet Abbotsford’s needs; the Division is already in discussions with physicians to satisfy those numbers. “We are excited about the interest in Abbotsford and work hard to make our new physicians feel welcome and get up and running in a practice as quickly as possible.” The Division’s goal is to make their transition to living and working in Abbotsford smooth and help them every step of the way.