Hay River welcomes permanent physician


Myles Dolphin/NNSL photo
Dr. Coralie Boudreau will be the first permanent doctor in Hay River in years.

After years of searching, Hay River will finally soon have a new permanent doctor.

Dr. Coralie Boudreau recently signed a three-year contract to serve Hay River and is scheduled to begin work on April 2.

The Nova Scotia native went to medical school at the University of Ottawa and did her residency in Newfoundland, and then served in various locum positions in the NWT last summer.

While in Inuvik, another doctor recommended she check out Hay River and a few visits later she was hooked on the community.

I love it here. It’s a beautiful town with a lot of activities and the crew at the hospital is just amazing to work with,” Boudreau said. “Unlike most of my colleagues, I love the snow and the cold air.”

She was planning to take part in this past weekend’s fishing derby and has already joined the community’s photography club.

I grew up in a town twice the size of Hay River and we had about half the activities, so that was a major part of what attracted me here,” she said.

Boudreau’s signing means residents with chronic diseases will not have to repeat their medical history every time they see a doctor in Hay River.

The Hay River Health and Social Services Authority successfully found the permanent medical practitioner after six long years of searching.

Until now, the authority had been cycling through a group of 52 locum practitioners, about 40 of which rotate through Hay River every year.

Erin Griffiths, the authority’s executive assistant and physician recruitment officer, said the locums are either young doctors or semi-retired ones, neither of whom have much interest in settling down in Hay River.

A lot of our locums have been with us since 2007,” she said. “Because of our location in the rural North, a lot of the younger graduates want to stay in the South, closer to their comfort zone, while the older ones aren’t quite ready to retire but they may have spouses that aren’t willing to relocate here.”

Griffiths said doctors nowadays put more emphasis on external factors when it comes to choosing a community in which to work.

When I was growing up, physicians lived and breathed medicine,” she said. “Today, the job is just as important, but the social and communal component is equally as important. I think it’s great because a lot of physicians I grew up with were really stressed.”

Boudreau’s hiring should also make it easier to attract other full-time medical practitioners to Hay River, by offering help and guidance to medical school graduates.

I have a lot of colleagues who would never sign on as a first physician somewhere,” she said. “Inevitably you’re going to end up doing a lot more of the behind-the-scenes work and a lot of newer graduates aren’t interested in that. You want to jump in somewhere where it’s already rolling well, and you know there’s a person who can take you under their wing.”

Boudreau said she is pleased that has already happened with the older locums and she looks forward to hearing about new developments in medicine from younger ones.

Mayor Andrew Cassidy praised Griffiths’ ability to recruit Boudreau and hopes it is the beginning of many more doctors coming to Hay River.

I’m really happy the hospital was able to pull this off and this is huge for our community,” Cassidy said.

The health authority’s goal is to have four permanent physicians and three permanent nurse practitioners, of which they already have one.

We hope to fill both nurse positions by the end of the year,” Griffiths said.

This summer, the health authority plans on implementing a perceptorship (teaching) program and Boudreau said that also factored into her decision to come here.

Most of us love to teach and we want to teach,” she said. “Moreover, physicians usually go back to the hospitals where they did their residencies after they graduate, which means this is a long-term recruitment tool.”

— Myles Dolphin