Good news on doctor front for Charlotte County

By Rhythm Rathi Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

ST. STEPHEN – Charlotte County is having success with recruiting doctors as committees working towards the same goal have decided to join forces.

After two doctors left the St. Stephen area last autumn, Dr. Suria Kumar Bugwandin started his practice in the town with the already practising Dr. Athir Ghanim, said St. Croix MLA Kathy Bockus in a social media post. She added there is a family physician couple who are in the works of setting up their practices this fall – one will practise in St. George and the other in St. Stephen.

Bockus wrote, “Another husband and wife team are considering a move to the area in 2024, and we have also signed a young graduating student to set up a roving practice here,” also mentioning that “Horizon has pledged support in providing data on types of physicians are needed (what specialists people have visited) and offered a support person to work with us in our recruitment efforts.”

Having three new doctors, after losing two last year, is “very promising” and at the same time it is “huge for our area actually,” said St. Stephen Mayor Allan MacEachern.

MacEachern said three committees have joined forces, making one entity, to work towards recruiting doctors in the area. Counting three, he said, the committee that Bockus sits on, the Regional Service Commission (RSC 10) committee and one committee from St. George are now working together to function as a single body toward the same goal.

McAdam Mayor Ken Stannix and the chair of RSC 10 called the move “positive.”

“We are moving in the right direction,” he added.

According to Bockus, it was decided that Sharon Tucker would remain the chair of the committee. MacEachern will be the vice chair, said Tucker.

“We felt it was very important that we had one consistent message that represented all people moving forward,” Tucker said.

Tucker confirmed that Dr. Bugwandin started his practice in September and the committee is currently focusing on recruiting more “family practitioners and other allied health services such as nurse practitioners, social workers and other health disciplines.” She noted that it isn’t focusing on specialized doctors at this point.

“Recruitment of doctors has to be community-based,” said Bockus, adding that it is important for the whole community to understand this and work together to make the area attractive for doctors. She said she is a “liaison” between the government and the people, but the community network is what has to work together.

Giving an example, Bockus explained that one of the committee members, who has experience in housing, helped Dr. Bugwandin find an apartment in the area. She said this collaboration was important “because we don’t all wanna be going in different directions, we wanna be working together.”

She said we need “a lot” of doctors as the retiring physicians have between 3,000-5,000 patients each and the new doctors prefer working in a collaborative setting where they have a lesser burden and can get some days to rest.

The committee found that the problem was “bigger than just St. Stephen” and included all the communities in Charlotte County, Bockus said.

“We needed a broader base.”

She mentioned that all the members from the RSC 10 committee are either local service district members or mayors of their communities and by everyone pooling their resources, it can be possible to recruit more doctors.

“Recruiting is all about connections.

“I think it’s a great effort, I am so pleased that we are all working together and that we have advanced as far as we have,” she said.