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Alberta announces funding for rural medical training

A patient receiving care from a doctor. (FILE) A patient receiving care from a doctor. (FILE)
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LETHBRIDGE, ALTA. -

The Government of Alberta has come up with a new plan to attract doctors to rural communities.

Schools from across the province, including the University of Lethbridge, will partner to have more doctors train in rural areas.

Nearly $225 million is being invested to train physicians in rural areas as part of the latest provincial budget.

“This will make a lasting difference for generations to come. I couldn't be more proud of Lethbridge, I couldn't be more proud of Alberta for coming together, working together and committing to making Alberta a better place to live, work, raise a family,” said Lethbridge-East MLA Nathan Neudorf.

The new training centres will be based at the U of L and Northwestern Polytechnic in Grande Prairie.

The U of L will partner with the University of Calgary for its program while Northwestern is partnering with the University of Alberta.

“Both training centres will provide academic instruction with hands-on health-care education. Students in the doctor of medicine program at the new training centres will learn alongside other health professionals,” said Rajan Sawhney, minister of advanced education.

The training centres will also be able to lighten the load on other doctors in the community.

Once fully operational, each general practitioner in the teaching clinics can provide primary care for approximately 1,200 patients a year.

“The creation of a rural medical education program training centre at the University of Lethbridge in partnership with the University of Calgary will make a long-term difference in increasing the number of physicians practicing outside Alberta’s major urban centres,” said U of L president Digvir Jayas,

Rural communities have been hit hard by doctor shortages.

Currently, there are no family doctors accepting patients in Lethbridge.

“The UCP is setting up a badly needed rural education expansion to fail if they do not also strongly support primary care in rural Alberta,” Luanne Metz, the Alberta NDP Critic for Health, said in a news release.

“The UCP government needs to fix the larger issues that are driving doctors away and keeping them from locating here.”

The province hopes the rural training program will provide a steady stream of doctors for rural and remote communities.

“We know that Alberta is currently dealing with a physician shortage and that the need is being felt more acutely in rural areas. Right now only 6.6 percent of Alberta physicians work in rural areas,” Sawhney said.

The U of L hopes it will be able to accept its first group training physicians in the 2025-26 school year.

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