Staffing challenges are not new to rural Albertans, who are familiar with the longstanding challenge of recruiting doctors to their communities.Unfortunately, COVID-19 has hit us hard. Doctors are not immune to the virus and have become sick themselves or have had to quarantine with loved ones. This has reduced the number of doctors who travel to fill shifts that would otherwise go unfilled.
Thankfully, vaccine supply has increased and the virus is receding – along with the threat it poses to frontline medical staff. This will lead to a more stable health care workforce in rural Alberta in the coming weeks.
But that doesn’t mean we can rest easy. Recruiting new physicians is a major priority for our government and we are working hard to do just that.
Last year, funding for rural doctors was increased by $90 million. AHS has been directed to increase the hiring of Canadian and foreign-trained doctors. And $6 million in funding has been earmarked to help pay for medical school – if students agree to complete their training in a rural community. We are starting to see the benefits of this investment.
More work is underway and more announcements of successful recruitments will be made over the coming months – and the work will not end there – Alberta’s government is working with rural MLAs and AHS to further increase efforts to increase and improve access to health care services in rural Alberta.
Minister of Alberta Health