Health News Provincial

Province invests $6M for medical students to work in rural Alberta

More physicians will be working in rural Alberta thanks to a $6-million investment that will increase Albertans’ access to the care they need.

The funds will be used over three years to help students pay for the costs of medical school. In exchange, students will complete residency training in rural Alberta and agree to practise in a rural Alberta community when their schooling is complete.

Return of Service Agreements will give Albertans in rural and remote areas timelier access to a family doctor. With RhPAP’s decades of experience working in this area, they are perfect partners to manage this program,” said Tyler Shandro, Minister of Health.

The Rural Health Professions Action Plan (RhPAP) will administer the new Return of Service Agreement program. RhPAP is a trusted and experienced organization that for the past 30 years has supported the efforts of rural Albertans to maintain an accessible health workforce close to home.

RhPAP will consult with rural partners to determine program details, which will be announced at a later date.

Alberta Health is spending about $90 million this year to address rural physician recruitment and retention. With the additional investment, RhPAP funding will increase to nearly $9 million annually.

RhPAP is a non-profit organization established in 1991 by the Alberta government. Originally, it focused on supporting practising rural physicians, but has since grown to be a broader rural community health workforce attraction and retention resource, an ally with Alberta’s medical schools, and a collaborative partner for rural Alberta communities trying to achieve greater access to health care.

Seventy-two per cent of rural family medicine program graduates from the University of Alberta and 66 per cent from the University of Calgary are practising in rural and regional communities.

According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, Alberta had about 800 rural physicians in 2019.