New Nanaimo doctor Stuart Ockelford was hooked on Vancouver Island at first sight.
He was supposed to set up a practice in Abbotsford.
He was in the midst of being recruited from England, he enjoyed the people he had met there and he felt the need for his services, but the pull of Vancouver Island was too great.
“Once I left the ferry at Tsawwassen on this beautiful Sunday morning with the sun out, blue skies, sailing through the islands, I thought God it’s beautiful,” he said.
“Within 24 hours I’d fallen in love with Vancouver Island.”
Ockelford is one of five new doctors who have moved to the Harbour City in the last year and among the few that has accepted new patients.
In this region, 11,880 patients are believed to be without a family doctor, and 20-25 per cent of physicians are expected to retire in the next three years, according to the Nanaimo Division of Family Practice, which has set out to address the problem with a recruitment and retention program.
While newly-recruited doctors have taken over practices and prevented people from being orphaned from family physicians, Dr. Ockelford is among those who have accepted new patients. People are no longer able to get on his list, Dr. Ockelford has taken 1,200 patients since starting at the Medical Arts Centre in 2014.
This community won his family over, he said.
They didn’t want to be in the thick of a city like Vancouver, and Victoria’s property prices were too high. They liked the scenery here, it’s central location and access to all the things they wanted, including a ski resort.
He could also have a work/life balance, which wasn’t possible under the U.K. medical system.
“It’s great,” said Ockelford.
Dr. David Sims has also been newly recruited to Nanaimo and will arrive this November from Yellowknife. He’ll be taking over a practice at Wellington Medical Clinic.
The community, geography and nearness to family were all factors in his decision but a supportive Division of Family Practice helped.
A recruiter sent his wife job appointments to look at and reminded him that there was a home in Nanaimo.
“To know that there was a very supportive and open and attentive division that was waiting was a big deal for me,” he said.
The Division of Family Practice is looking to attract more doctors, with the help of a new recruitment coordinator, marketing and welcome packages.