Saskatchewan, B.C. offer funding to attract doctors

Looking to boost number of physicians in rural areas

The governments of British Columbia and Saskatchewan are both looking to attract more doctors to rural areas in the provinces through additional funding of $100,000 and $120,000 respectively.

The government of B.C. and the BC Medical Association are partnering to offering a new incentive that will provide each physician with a one-time payment of $100,000 when they commit to a three-year return of service in 17 designated rural communities.

Participating physicians will receive $50,000 when they begin working in the community. The remaining $50,000 will be paid once they have completed one year of service.

All applicants must commit to a three-year return of service and the full amount must be repaid if this commitment is not fulfilled. Primary and specialist physicians are eligible to apply for the incentive, as well as medical school residents who transition to full-time practice in one of the designated rural communities.

Other eligibility requirements include:

•being recruited to and residing in one of the eligible rural communities

•moving from outside B.C. or from a non-rural community within B.C.

•residing and practising in the community for a minimum of nine months each year

•full or provisional registration and licensure from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C.

Saskatchewan looks at five-year program

Saskatchewan’s Rural Physician Incentive Program will provide $120,000 in funding over five years to recent medical graduates who establish practice in rural communities of 10,000 people or less.

“Recruiting doctors to rural areas and keeping them once they’re here is a huge priority for our government,” said Premier Brad Wall. “We’ve had some really solid success, increasing the Saskatchewan’s overall physician supply, but there are challenges in rural communities. This program will help improve patient access to physician services in rural areas.”

Eligible physicians will receive a payment at the end of each year of practice, with payments gradually increasing over the five-year period.

Newly graduated doctors typically finish studies with a large debt load due to their many years of education. The incentive is designed to help ease that financial burden, said the government.

The program will be retroactive to April 1, 2012, and is open to both Canadian and international medical graduates. It will be administered by saskdocs, the province’s physician recruitment agency.

“The recruitment of physicians, especially to rural or remote communities, is a real challenge,” said CEO Ed Mantler. “We know that incentives like the one announced today help get a physician to a community, but retention is a challenge as well so we’ll work closely with our partners to find innovative ways to retain physicians in those locations, increasing health care accessibility throughout the province.”

The province’s 2009 physician recruitment strategy is paying off, said the government, with overall physician numbers increasing. More than 240 physicians are practising in Saskatchewan today than in 2007, and there are more than 2,000 physicians overall.

The Rural Physician Incentive Program is among a number of initiatives underway to address physician recruitment and retention:

•Training and residency seats have been added to the College of Medicine in Saskatoon.

•More international doctors are coming to Saskatchewan through a new assessment process, the Saskatchewan International Physician Practice Assessment (SIPPA) that accepts applications from a wider range of countries.

•More physicians are being trained in rural Saskatchewan, recognizing that experiencing a rural lifestyle increases the chance they will stay for a longer term.

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