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42 residency spaces unfilled in Alberta, concerning some doctors


There's growing concern that access to family doctors is getting worse in our province as Alberta struggles to fill 42 residency spaces for primary care.

According to the Canadian Resident Matching Service, (CaRMS) a system for matching medical students with residency spaces across the country, 42 spaces for family medicine in Alberta went unfilled in the first round.

British Columbia has just two spots still open while Saskatchewan has no vacancies.


"I'm really worried," said Dr. Christine Gibson, a licensed family practice physician in Calgary who closed her practice a year and a half ago.

She says there's concern amongst Alberta physicians about the lack of medical students signing up for training spots in Alberta.

"What we're seeing in that 42 unmatched spots in the first round of match in Alberta just really reflects the reticence of physicians to come to this particular province," she said.

Gibson said she's also concerned that access to primary care in Alberta will be further challenged if doctors-in-training don't attempt to establish themselves in the province.

"It's dire. Most of the people I know who are trying to get their patients covered by other physicians are struggling. The patients are the ones struggling the most," she said.

The president of the Alberta Medical Association called the situation a "disaster."

"We need to have an environment where people want to come, and that number speaks huge to me about people who don't want to come to Alberta. If they're in Alberta, they don't want to stay," said Dr. Fredrykka Rinaldi.

She says prospective doctors are turned off because the relationship between doctors and the provincial government has devolved - stemming from recent compensation negotiations, and the pressure from the pandemic.

She later added, "we have human healthcare resources crisis already."


The dean of the Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary says strategies are in motion to fill those 42 placements.

Dr. Todd Anderson says that interest in primary care has shrunk nation-wide in recent years.

"At one point, about five or six years ago, about 40 per cent of our graduates at the University of Calgary chose family medicine in the last year, that's down to about 25 per cent."

He says the curriculum at the medical school is being revamped with more instructors who are general practitioners to increase mentorship opportunities.

As well, they are adding programs to link medical students to family medicine jobs, especially after rural residency placements.

"At the end of the day, the medical system relies upon upon the medical home, patients need a place to go, they need a place to stay out of the hospital in the emergency rooms," said Anderson.

There will be a second round of "matching" and Anderson said there will be efforts to make sure all the vacancies are filled.


CTV News received an emailed statement from Scott Johnston, press secretary for Health Minister Jason Copping.

It reads, in part, "Alberta's government is investing $24.5 billion in Budget 2023, the highest amount ever, into our health-care system. We are also expanding our medical programs at the University of Calgary and the University of Alberta."

Johnston also says that the second round of matching is when placements are typically filled.

"However the process is undergoing a change. Health Minister Jason Copping has already asked the department to work with the deans to make sure that if there are any unfilled spaces, that they offer them up to the best available International Medical Graduates because of the need to train more doctors. Over the last eight years more than 95 per cent of seats were filled," he added.

He adds the province is spending $113 million to expand 100 medical residency training spaces in Calgary and Edmonton in addition to the CaRMS process.

As for concerns over the doctors shortage in Alberta, Johnston says "we have more doctors than there have ever been in this province" and says 254 more physicians started practising in the province last year. Top Stories

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