Signficant investments recognize the challenge of providing health-care services in rural Alberta.
Effective immediately, the $60,000 cap on the Rural and Remote Northern Program (RRNP) will be abolished. This program will now be the most generous in the country.
Overhead changes announced earlier this year will be paused for urban physicians while an extensive review by AHS with physician involvement is completed. Rural physicians will be exempted from any changes permanently.
Medical liability rates for all rural physicians, including obstetrics, will be frozen at $1,000. Rates for all family physicans in Alberta will also be frozen at $1,000. Rates for all other urban physicians will range from a low of $1,200 to a maximum of $4,000.
On-call rates for all rural physicians will range from $20 per hour to $23 per hour, increasing payments to more than 1,500 physicians who are on call in rural Alberta.
$6 million will be used to pay for the schooling of 20 medical students over the next three years to incentivize young Albertans from rural communities to return to practise in their home communities after completing medical school.
“Over the last several weeks, discussions with rural caucus and rural physicians have made it clear that there are unique challenges to recruiting and retaining physicians in communities outside of Alberta’s major cities. These changes recognize that difference and will significantly improve access to health care for patients in rural communities.”Tyler Shandro, Minister of Health
In addition, clinical researcher Dr. Lee Green has been contracted to engage physicians on how to improve health care in rural communities through alternative compensation models.
“As a longtime advocate of alternative funding models, I hope we can not only improve alternative funding programs themselves, but use alternative funding approaches to improve primary health care in Alberta. That will mean engaging with, hearing, and applying the wisdom of the practice community to make real change happen.”Dr. Lee Green, professor and chair, Department of Family Medicine, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Alberta
- Initiatives being implemented for rural physicians:
- Having the ability to earn more through the RRNP, effective immediately. The cap and flat fee components of the program will be removed and eligible communities will be reviewed.
- Immediately increasing on-call rates for rural family medicine physicians with special skills from $11 per hour to $20 per hour, and for rural on-call from $20 per hour to $23 per hour.
- Exempting rural physicians from the new overhead policy. Implementation of the overhead policy will be delayed for urban physicians until a complete policy review.
- Freezing the Medical Liability Reimbursement Program deductible for all rural physicians and all family physicians at $1,000.00.
- Engaging physicians on how to improve health care in rural communities.
- Internationally recognized clinical researcher Dr. Lee Green has been contracted to provide advice on how to modernize alternative compensation models for physicians working in community-based primary care practice. Dr. Green is a professor and chair of the Department of Family Medicine in the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Alberta. He is also a practicing physician, with academic research focused on the pillars of the Patient’s Medical Home model of primary care.
- Creating a new salary model for primary care.
- The Provincial Primary Care Network Committee will be asked to form a working group to provide recommendations on how to improve primary care in rural communities.
- Alberta Health is spending about $81 million this year to address rural physician recruitment and retention through programs, including:
- RRNP – provides direct financial incentives to physicians who live and practise in underserviced communities.
- Rural Health Professions Action Plan – works with communities to enhance the attraction and retention of health professionals for rural practice.
- Rural Medical Education programs – supports medical students and residents’ experiences with rural health care, with the goal of increasing interest in, and ultimately choosing a rural medicine career path.
- Physician Locum Service Program – ensures that communities with four or fewer physicians have access to continuous medical coverage if a physician is unable to provide services due to short-term absences.
- Rural On-Call Program – provides remuneration to physicians providing emergency on-call services at eligible facilities in rural areas.
- There are about 1,000 rural physicians practising in Alberta.