ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - More physician specialists are staying to work in Newfoundland and Labrador than in previous years, a new study says.
The study by Memorial University researchers compares retention rates over two four-year periods from 1993 to 1997 and from 2000 to 2004.
The research found that doctors working in the province since 2000 were 1.6 times less likely to leave after four years than doctors in the 1990s.
Health professor Maria Matthews said it's believed the improved retention rate is mainly due to the number of graduates from Memorial University who stay in the province to practise.
"Those graduates ... make up a much larger proportion of the physician workforce in 2000 than they did in 1990 and we think that's what's really driving improvements in retention," said Matthews.
She said the study suggests the long-term solution to addressing specialist shortages seems to be the continued training of doctors locally as opposed to bringing internationally trained specialists on provisional licences.
However, she said current shortages mean specialists will still have to be recruited from outside the province for the foreseeable future.
"If we eliminated those provisional licences we would still be short of the physicians that we need," Matthews said.
The study says other factors in the improved retention rates include better recruitment efforts by the province and better pay.
She said the study doesn't examine the impact of last year's four-year contract with 1,200 doctors, which saw the province give them almost $88 million in raises.
"This study was done before last year's agreement, but we know in general there has been a steady increase in the remuneration package ... and definitely that's one of the things that we say contributed to the improved overall retention," said Matthews.
The study was published Tuesday in the independent peer-reviewed journal Open Medicine.
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