Often, urban folk are unaware of the reality that many rural Albertans face on a daily basis. Unexpected hospital nurse and doctor shortages, and longer wait times to see a family doctor. That is if you can even get on their patient list.
This is only one of the challenges that make it hard for family doctors to move to places like High Level, or Fort Macleod, and start a lasting and meaningful career.
The recruitment and retention for family doctors has been an ongoing struggle for too many of us in rural Alberta. Sadly, this isn’t new, nor is it unique to our province.
All the same: it’s difficult to attract new talent, and it’s hard to incentivize people to stay and build a practice in some of the smallest towns in our province – especially when that community may be hundreds of kilometres away from someone’s own hometown and a trip to Costco turns into a day-long trip.
However, we’re seeing some positive changes. This week, Health Minister Jason Copping announced the next step of an ambitious $6 million partnership between our government and the Rural Health Professions Action Plan (RhPAP). The program, called “RESIDE,” (or, Rural Education Supplement and Integrated Doctor Experience) aims to give more family doctors and medical residents the opportunity to start their careers in rural Alberta.
In exchange for benefits that pay up to $60,000 of undergraduate tuition, plus a remote community living incentive RESIDE will attract 20 new family physicians to communities of need, each year, for a three-year contract. That initial contract, alongside the support of the RhPAP, in turn increases the odds that these same doctors will put down roots in those same communities.
This year, 15 communities were selected as eligible for RESIDE, including Ponoka.
Albertans in rural communities deserve equal access to lifesaving care and doctors who have the capacity to guide them through medical care long term. Just as important, having local physicians who decide to stay and build a career gives rural Albertans access to a health professional that can provide them with years of health care while building up and inspiring future generations.
I am hopeful that this program will take us in a new direction with rural healthcare. This funding will benefit young family doctors, giving them exciting opportunities to travel and expand their horizons. RESIDE will also open up more access to healthcare in remote areas, and give them the chance to welcome in talented newcomers who are ready to serve their new homes.
I encourage everyone who is interested in this program to visit rhpap.ca. Eligible physicians can apply starting Feb. 1, and the deadline is March 31. If you have concerns regarding this or any issue, feel free to contact my office at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 403 782 7725.
Constituency assistant/office manager for Honourable Ron Orr, MLA
Lacombe-Ponoka, Minister of Culture