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WHEREAS there is a shortage of rural physicians in all of Canada and,
WHEREAS certain rural areas have a more difficult time attracting doctors and,
WHEREAS Alberta Health and Wellness has a set of criteria that determines when an area’s doctor shortage is deemed a “Community in Need”
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties encourage the Provincial Government, through Alberta Health and Wellness, to consent to pay travel expenses for out-of-province physicians willing to investigate relocating to “Communities in Need”.
Over the last few years rural communities have experienced critical doctor shortages resulting in substandard health care. Due to this shortage of physicians and the negative impact on communities many regions have formed doctor retention and recruitment committees offering incentives to retain and attract physicians.
If a physician goes through the recruitment branch of Alberta Health Services, his expenses to visit a community in the interest of relocating all his costs are covered. As the demand for physicians in rural areas far exceeds the number of referrals from Alberta Health Services the communities/regions generally are responsible for paying for the expenses of physicians wanting to investigate and/or relocate to rural communities. These committees are facing funding challenges in bringing prospective physicians to their communities. The costs incurred for travel, food and housing put an additional strain on already tight budgets.
Providing financial assistance for the expenses incurred by municipalities for physicians visiting their communities with an interest to relocation would allow more funds to be allotted for recruitment and retention incentives.
1-10F: THERFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties work with Alberta Health and Wellness to modify its locum program to accommodate regions that have no physicians and allow these areas access to the locum doctors and allow the length of stay of these locums to be several months.
11-08S: THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties urge the Provincial Government to expedite processes related to immigration and certification through the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta when recruiting qualified medical staff.
Health and Wellness:
The recruitment of physicians to Alberta’s rural communities is a joint responsibility of the communities, the community physicians, Alberta Health Services and the Government of Alberta. Alberta’s rural communities need to work proactively with Alberta Health Services and their community physicians to recruit and retain physicians. Our government has a number of provincial initiatives which support the recruitment and retention efforts of Alberta’s rural communities by providing financial incentives for physicians to practice in rural Alberta, and provide programming which supports the physicians once they are practicing.
The Rural, Remote and Northern Program provides a direct and immediate response to issues faced by areas of the province where it is difficult to recruit or retain physicians. The program pays physicians practicing in eligible communities a fee premium on all insured services provided. In addition, physicians who reside in eligible communities may apply to receive a flat fee payment, providing they earn a set minimum ($50,000) from insured services. The flat fee payment to an eligible physician who resides in Three Hills or Trochu is approximately $13,000.
Three Hills was able to successfully recruit a newly graduated physician at the end of summer 2010. According to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta, there are currently four physicians practicing in Three Hills and two physicians in Trochu.
The Rural Physician Action Plan (RPAP) is one of the Government of Alberta’s primary resources to support rural physicians. It is a comprehensive, integrated and sustained program for the education, recruitment and retention of physicians for rural practice. For example, the program offers return-for-service bursaries, which can cover medical students’ tuition costs if they agree to work in designated areas of the province for a set period of time upon graduation. The RPAP works closely with rural communities in establishing and developing physician recruitment and retention committee initiatives. Ms. Kelly Lyons, Recruitment and Relocation Consultant for RPAP, can be contacted for further information at email@example.com or at
780-423-9911. RPAP is responsible for organizing the Rural Alberta Community Physician Recruitment and Retention Conference (now in its third year). The last conference, which took place from November 7 to 9, 2010, was attended by five representatives from Kneehill County.
At meetings with the Minister, it was brought to the attention of the AAMDC that there is funding available for out-of-province expenses. Up to $10,000 is available, though applications for funding must be made in advance of the expenses being incurred. With this development, the intent of the resolution has been fulfilled, and the AAMDC gives this resolution the status of accepted.
In 2012, the federal government announced further incentives to attract doctors to rural Canada. Both doctors and nurses will have access of up to $40,000 or $20,000 respectively, for working for five years in a rural area. While this is a significant motivator for new doctors, the government has yet to address that there remains no mechanism in place to address relocation costs for out-of-province physicians. The AAMDC will continue to bring this issue forward through ministerial meetings.