WHEREAS rural Alberta is facing a drastic shortage of physicians and other medical specialists;AND WHEREAS all Albertans should have access to physicians and other medical specialist services and should not be denied this access due to an inadequate supply of physicians because of where they live;AND WHEREAS the Rural Physicians Innovation/Retention Grants currently sponsored through the Province allow recovery of some recruitment expenses, but fall short in assisting general practice physicians and or specialists to establish practices in rural Alberta; AND WHEREAS the Province of Ontario has recently implemented a program to assist with the financial needs of medical students who agree to practice in designated underserviced areas of rural and northern communities for a specified period of time after their postgraduate training;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties urge the Province of Alberta to do more to address physician supply and distribution by implementing a program similar to that offered in the Province of Ontario, by providing adequate financial assistance to recent medical graduates and or relocating international medical graduates who agree to practice for a specified period of time in the underserviced areas in rural communities of Alberta after completion of their training.
The Physician Resource Planning Committee has released statistics regarding the impending shortage of full-time equivalent physicians in Alberta. The Canadian Medical Association has also released similar information depicting future physician needs throughout Canada. Government cutbacks and health care reform have taken their toll on the health care workforce. The decline in physician supply, combined with the aging population shows Canada as heading for a doctor shortage in the immediate future. Access to doctors will continue to decline with a direct cause being physician supply. The hardest hit of all are, and will continue to be, the rural and remote areas of Canada. Rural Alberta is already seeing these effects.Although the Government of Alberta is making efforts to increase the undergraduate medical school seats and post graduate residencies, there is nothing in their plan to assist rural communities to recruit and retain these new physicians. Statistics show that 60% of the general practitioners operate in the Edmonton and Calgary regions, with 85% of the specialists also operating in these two areas. Without incentive to attract physicians to rural, small-town Alberta, the large centres continue to attract the bulk of the medical health care workforce. Rural health authorities need government assistance to be able to offer packages to attract and retain physicians in the rural communities.Current recruitment/retention methods make it difficult for new physicians to establish viable practices in rural Alberta. These new physicians face many expenses when trying to establish their practices, whether they are recent graduates or international medical graduates relocating to rural Alberta. Such things as housing agreements, office space, office equipment leasing and time-limited wage guarantees are ways that the provincial government could assist regional health authorities to get physicians into the rural communities. Regional health authorities do not have additional funds to be able to offer financial assistance to new physicians. Other provinces in Canada have recognized the urgency to correct the problems with physician numbers in the rural communities and just recently the Province of Ontario has announced a new program to financially assist medical students. Their program requires a commitment to practice in the rural underserviced communities for three to four years immediately following graduation. This initiative will get new doctors into these underserviced areas and assist medical students with their high financial costs.This type of initiative will assist the underserviced rural communities to not only get physicians but to get young physicians which will also assist the aging physician population.
Resolution 7-95F, ensoresed at the fall 1995 convention, also requests provincial action in support of efforts to recruit physician services to rural communities. Note that Resolution 7-95F will no longer be in effect following the 2000 fall convention.