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Grande Prairie one of two locations for possible rural regional health training centre

The Government of Alberta is looking to deal with the physician deficit in rural Alberta by investing $1 million to explore developing two regional health training centers — one in Grande Prairie, and one in Lethbridge.

Minister of Advanced Education Demetrios Nicolaides says both the University of Calgary and the University of Alberta have taken steps to grow healthcare education in rural communities, including having seats in classes for rural applicants and offering shadowing and learning opportunities and elective rotations in the rural parts of the province. However, even with these steps, Nicolaides says there is no substitute for local training.

“The funds will be used by the University of Alberta, the University of Calgary, the University of Lethbridge, and Northwestern Polytechnic in Grande Prairie to support collaboration and planning,” Nicolaides says. “Our two established schools at the U of A and the U of C will lead the planning effort to explore a new model that will ultimately increase training of rural physicians.”

He adds part of this exploration will include looking at the feasibility of the Grande Prairie training center. The minister says by creating learning opportunities in these areas will help with recruitment and retention. Alberta’s Health Minister Jason says this program will be a vital part to bring physicians to smaller communities.

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“The best way to recruit people to the place you want them to work is to train them there,” Copping adds.

Dean of the University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry Dr. Brenda Hemmelgarn says exploration will look at how to best operationalize, and what the best structures and governance of the rural training centers would be.

“We want to ensure we have the proper engagement with key stakeholders during this time with the local communities, with the physicians in the communities, with public health care in the communities,” Hemmelgarn says. “Because that is where those students will be training in those communities.”

Hemmelgarn says by the middle to end of April a report on the exploration will be completed and sent to the ministers with recommendations for the training centers.

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