As part of the Alberta Government's overarching Health Care Action Plan (HCAP), the government announced that $158 million would go towards a new Health Workforce Strategy in the 2023 budget. Of that $158 million, the money will be doled out like so:
- $90 million to strengthen programs to attract and retain rural physicians
- $29 million to focus on underserviced rural and remote communities
- $7 million for the targeted recruitment of internationally trained nurses from the United States and the United Kingdom
- $1 million to fund the provincial Nurse Navigator program which support all nurses immigrating to Alberta
More initiatives will be announced in the coming weeks, which is why at the moment the current numbers don't add up to $158 million. Among other things, the main actions in the strategy focus on new approaches to rural and remote care delivery, as well as increasing staff and supports.
Health Minister Jason Copping says this strategy will lay the foundation for a sustainable healthcare system and increase access to healthcare services.
“Demands on the workforce will also continue to grow as the population ages. This strategy builds on the great work already underway and sets the stage for a resilient work environment in the province that supports its workers in providing the highest quality health care,” Copping said.
A government press release explained this new Health Workforce Strategy is built around five pillars:
- Retain and support – Provide a safe, engaging and meaningful work environment to retain Alberta’s health care workers.
- Attract – Recruit new workers from across Canada and the globe to build a sustainable workforce with the right skills.
- Grow – Create capacity to educate and train the workforce of the future.
- Strengthen – Implement collaborative, proactive and evidence-informed approaches to long-term workforce planning.
- Evolve – Design and implement new models of care and enabling tools to deliver more efficient, high-quality care.
Copping explained this strategy is an overarching long-term strategy, so at the moment there aren't specifics on what exactly will happen. As the budget gets finalized and released more details will come, but he explained having broad strategies like this is important, as it allows the government to evaluate the actions they're taking within the strategy and see if it's working or not.
"There are tons of tactics, some of them will work, some of them won't. But what's important is that we continue to evaluate them and what's not working, we change it. Because at the end of the day we need to ensure that we have the staff available in the places that we need them so we can provide the health services for Albertans where and when they need them."
As for the challenges surrounding rural communities and doctor shortages, Copping admitted this has been an issue for a very long time, and this new strategy will work to address those problems. He said this strategy is one of many ways they're trying to address the issue, as actions have already been implemented prior to this announcement to bring more doctors to rural communities.