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Province announces $6 million for medical students to work in rural Alberta

The Alberta government recently announced $6 million in funding that will be geared toward placing medical students in rural areas of the province.
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The Province has announced $6 million in funding to aid medical school students and join the workforce in rural communities. Photo by Jeshoots/Unsplash

The Alberta government recently announced $6 million in funding that will be geared toward placing medical students in rural areas of the province.

“We are pleased for this new program to get off the ground to get more doctors working in rural areas,” said Minister of Health Tyler Shandro when the funding was announced March 27. “Return of Service Agreements will give Albertans in rural and remote areas timelier access to a family doctor.”

The new Return of Service Agreement Program will be administered by the Rural Health Professions Action Plan (RhPAP), an organization that has supported the efforts of rural Albertans to maintain an accessible health workforce close to home for the last 30 years.

According to an RhPAP press release, Alberta Health is spending approximately $90 million this year to address rural physician recruitment retention.

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

“With the additional investment, RhPAP funding will increase to nearly $9 million annually,” the release stated.

Jonathan Koch, RhPAP’s director of communications and marketing, said the pandemic hasn’t played a major role in the funding announcement.

“From what we know, this is part of a long-term strategy that the Province wants to use to help get more physicians in rural communities,” he said. “[It’s also] to help these medical students and cover costs of medical school.”

Koch said it will take a few years of the program being in place to make the investment worthwhile, but he believes it will far outlast the pandemic.

“In general, it is far more challenging to recruit physicians and healthcare professionals in smaller and rural communities,” he said. “That is why we are here. We were created 30 years ago to work with rural communities to develop strategies to attract and retain these professionals.”

According to Koch, based on the initial announcement the funding is intended for 60 medical school students.

“Beyond the fact that many details are being ironed out, I think it is such a great fit for our organization,” he said. “Our mandate is working with these communities and supporting their efforts. We are just so grateful to be able to do this work. It’s nice to play a role in building healthy and sustainable rural communities."

Jordan Stricker, AirdrieToday.com
Follow me on Twitter @Jay_Strickz



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