Manitoba reviews contract after staffing agency fails to recruit single doctor to province in 8 months | CBC News

Manitoba’s health minister is investigating why a staffing agency has little to show for it after signing a contract to send 150 family doctors to the province.

Eight months after the province signed a two-year contract with Canadian Health Labs (CHL), the company has yet to hire a single doctor for the province, the government confirmed Tuesday.

Health Minister Uzoma Asagwara promises to review the contract as the government considers further measures.

“Of course it’s disappointing,” Asagwara said after an unrelated news conference.

“Manitobans rely on governments – the previous government and our government included – to ensure we recruit the doctors necessary to provide the care they deserve.”

The previous Progressive Conservative government signed the deal with Canadian Health Labs, a Toronto-based staffing firm, last August following a competitive bidding process.

150 doctors are to be hired

The company plans to hire 50 doctors in Winnipeg, 50 in northern Manitoba and 50 in other rural communities within two years.

While there is the possibility of extending the contract to a third year, former PC Health Minister Audrey Gordon expressed confidence last summer that the goal would be achieved. She added that the recruitment company would face penalties if targets were not met at certain stages of the contract.

Asagwara said a review of the province’s agreement was underway.

“As minister, I will thoroughly review the contract and determine the best next steps.”

There are no options off the table, Asagwara said. Choices may include delaying or terminating the contract, according to a redacted contract obtained by Radio-Canada through a Freedom of Information request.

CHL claims it has done “significant work” in recruiting family doctors to the province, the vast majority of whom are international candidates.

In February, Shared Health, which oversees health care in Manitoba, told CBC News the company had “dedicated recruiters in a number of countries and is planning virtual recruiting events to provide information about opportunities for physicians in Manitoba.”

In a job posting on the CHL website, the company tells interested physicians that Manitoba offers “a rewarding medical career and an exceptional quality of life.”

Canadian Health Labs is also offering a $3,500 referral fee to individuals who refer interested physicians and are willing to travel to Manitoba for work. It is unclear whether this offer is related to the company’s commitment to hire 150 physicians for Manitoba.

NDP mother on recruitment progress

The company’s limited progress so far is a setback for the NDP government, which has made recruiting health workers a top priority.

In last year’s election, the party committed to hiring 400 more doctors within five years.

Neither Asagwara nor the government would respond on Tuesday whether the government had made any progress.

“There is no panacea or one-size-fits-all approach to physician recruitment in Manitoba,” the minister said.

“We take a dynamic approach. We will work with anyone across the system who wants to participate in physician recruitment for our province.”

PC spokesman Matt Preprost said the Tories had “developed a plan to recruit doctors” during their time in government and implementation is now the responsibility of the current government.

Canadian Health Labs was the subject of one Globe and Mail investigation Earlier this year, it emerged that the company was charging other provinces more than $300 an hour for a nurse – about six times what a local nurse earns.

Although the recruitment agency was awarded the contract to recruit physicians for Manitoba, it has limited experience in this area. The company turned only to healthcare staffing during the pandemic.

Doctors Manitoba, which advocates for doctors in the province, said it doesn’t have much first-hand experience with CHL.

The association was invited by Shared Health to identify physician practices needing staffing assistance and provided the company with a list of more than 50 clinics. Manitoba doctors said they didn’t know whether CHL had contacted those clinics.

Manitoba is reviewing contract that has resulted in no new doctor being hired in 8 months

The provincial health minister is currently reviewing a contract with a Toronto-based staffing agency that appears to be making little progress toward its goal of hiring 150 more family doctors in two years.

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