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Why doctors are moving to Sault Ste. Marie to join its innovative Group Health Centre

Sault Ste. Marie's award-winning Group Health Centre is delivering a master class in quality health care and work/life balance for its ever-growing medical team

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For family doctors passionate about delivering quality medical care and maintaining a healthy work/life balance, running a successful practice—while managing the countless administrative tasks that divert their time and energy from patients—can be difficult.

Not at Sault Ste. Marie’s award-winning Group Health Centre (GHC).

The GHC difference

“We feel there’s a link between physician well-being and better patient outcomes,” says Dr. Jodie Stewart, a family doctor on GHC’s Board of Directors and the CEO of the Algoma District Medical Group. “We have a dedicated staff assisting physicians with onboarding, retirement planning, practice transitions, schedule development, dues payments and many other aspects of professional life. At the GHC, physicians are not bogged down by trying to run a business, they’re devoting all of their time to what matters most: the patient.”

The GHC is home to a top-notch, ever-growing medical team, including primary- and specialty-care physicians, nurse practitioners, allied-health professionals and more than 100 nurses. It eschews the quantity-based “fee for service” model for doctors, operating instead with a unique quality-driven blend of stipend- and billing-based payments. And its expansive facilities offer an array of comprehensive services, from diagnostic imaging and cardiology testing to physiotherapy, audiology and a new integrated electronic medical-records system. The result is multidisciplinary end-to-end care for patients and invaluable administrative support and resources for doctors.

“The GHC provides [us] with an office, examination rooms, a nurse, clerical staff and all of the equipment needed to run a modern practice without any up-front costs,” says Dr. Jonathan Bishop, who moved his family to Sault Ste. Marie 10 years ago. “The opportunity to join the GHC was one of the biggest selling points for me. It’s a unique organization that doesn’t fit any of the standard care models.”

Photo supplied by Dr. Jonathan Bishop, who moved his family to Sault Ste. Marie 10 years ago.

Improved work-life balance

Dr. Allison Webb, who moved to “the Soo” in 2015, agrees. “I can enjoy my practice, focus on the medicine and feel well-supported with great clerical and nursing staff,” she says. “I provide a number of services as a family physician, and I love that I’m not needing to simultaneously run a business.” The GHC’s collaborative environment is also a key draw. “I love the sense of community. I’m not working in a silo,” says Dr. Stewart, and Dr. Bishop concurs. “Practicing in the same building as numerous other family physicians and specialists allows for easily accessible discussions, either by phone or in-person, to provide optimal care for patients,” he says.

Photo supplied by Dr. Allison Webb, who moved to “the Soo” in 2015.

Just as appealing for the doctors? What moving to Sault Ste. Marie and working at the GHC has afforded them outside of their practices: enviably short commutes, spectacular natural beauty, endless outdoor-adventure opportunities and savouring a work/life balance coveted by many big-city physicians.

“Even if I don’t get home until six or seven at night, I can still take our kids waterskiing, tubing or fishing right from the beach in our backyard,” says Dr. Bishop. “Being able to come home after work and enjoy a sunset on Lake Superior puts things in perspective as to how fortunate we are.”

To learn more about practice opportunities in Sault Ste. Marie, contact Christine Pagnucco, manager of physician recruitment at PagnuccoC@sah.on.ca.

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