On March 13 at the University of Alberta, the Government of Alberta announced that Budget 2023 will invest $185 million toward the expansion of post-secondary health-care programs in Alberta.
The government will be investing $72 million over three years to create more than 3,400 additional seats in post-secondary health-care programs across Alberta. In Budget 2023 the government also promised to invest $113 million toward the addition of 100 residency training spaces, primarily in rural areas and specialist fields.
“When we ensure that learners can access the programs and training they need, we end up with a highly talented pool of graduates who are ready to join the workforce,” Minister of Advanced Education Demetrios Nicolaides said.
Nicolaides said that students are more likely to work in the community that they study in, however there is limited access to physician training in rural areas. He added that health-care programs are at capacity, especially at the U of A and the University of Calgary (U of C) and this funding can help mitigate that.
“Over 3,500 qualified applicants in health programs could not be accepted this past year alone, with over 2,000 of those being qualified nursing applicants,” he said.
“These schools consistently rank as some of the best in the country and best in the world. But we need to create more opportunities for these highly skilled students, if we want to ensure the strength of our health-care sector.”
Nicolaides specified that out of the $72 million investment for additional seats in health-care programs, $19.5 million will go toward new seats in physician training programs at the U of A and U of C. Of that, $2 million will be provided to create 20 new seats in 2023-24, $5.8 million will be provided to create 40 new seats in 2024-25, and $11.6 million will be provided to create 60 new seats in 2025-26.
“By the end of the three years, this will result in an increase of approximately 34 per cent of physician seats, getting more doctors into our communities. The larger proposal, however, is a 10-year plan, and with this plan, we will increase physician seats in our province by 54 per cent,” Nicolaides said.
The government will also be investing $30 million over three years for targeted enrolment expansion in health-care related programs, specifically aiming to create 1,800 additional seats in nursing, health-care aid, and paramedicine programs.
For internationally educated nurses, the government will be investing $15 million for the creation of new bridging programs, which will “help create 900 new seats for internationally educated nurses studying in Alberta,” Nicolaides said. This is in addition to a previous investment of $7.3 million toward expanding existing bridging programs.
“Our ability to recruit and retain doctors is a top priority for our government,” Minister of Health says
“Our ability to recruit and retain doctors is a top priority for our government. One of the best ways to do that is to make sure there are more opportunities for Albertans to train and work closer to where they live,” Minister of Health Jason Copping said.
Over the next three years, $113 million will be invested in medical residency positions, particularly in regional centres and rural communities. Copping said that this investment will give local students the opportunity to learn closer to home.
“When medical residents can train in rural areas, they’re more likely to stay in those areas,” Copping said.
He added that this investment will go toward the creation of 30 new residency positions for international medical graduates who require additional training, and the development of regional health professional training centres in Lethbridge and Grand Prairie.
“These centres will serve as hubs for clinical teaching, program administration, and networking for rural medical education in the surrounding rural communities,” Copping said.
According to Copping, once the medical seat expansion is “fully realized, we expect Alberta will be producing approximately 100 more physicians each and every year.”
“Budget 2023 investments being announced today will have a direct impact on increasing the number of health professionals, to support Alberta’s health care needs.”
Dr. Brenda Hemmelgarn, dean of the U of A’s faculty of medicine and dentistry, said that this funding will allow the U of A to continue developing “our cross-province partnership of health professional training opportunities.”
“Our mandate here at the U of A is to serve the health care needs of not just our city, but of all Albertans. We’re committed to that by expanding into the rural and Indigenous communities … which are in some of the most remote places within the province,” she said.
“Today we’re investing in the future of each and every citizen in the province, and moving towards making our vision of equitable access to health care a reality.”
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