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Saskatchewan reports progress in healthcare recruitment and training

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The Government of Saskatchewan says it is making progress on its Health Workforce Action Plan (HHR), which was allocated $141 million in this year's budget.

“Continued investment in our ambitious HHR Action Plan will ensure Saskatchewan remains an attractive place for health professionals to live and work,” said Health Minister Everett Hindley.

“I am pleased to see continued progress on several initiatives to recruit, train, develop and retain more health professionals, strengthen health care teams and provide improved patient care for residents in communities across the province.”

Several new incentives are available to support the recruitment and retention of high-demand professionals:

  • An anesthesia incentive package that includes a relocation grant and an annual incentive of $200,000 over five years for regional service and $100,000 over five years for city service;

  • A $200,000 incentive over five years for regional mental health services; And

  • A $200,000 incentive over five years for breast and interventional radiology at approved locations.

Beginning in April 2023, an increased Rural Physician Incentive of up to $200,000 over five years has been offered to physicians practicing in rural and remote communities. To date, 256 potentially eligible applications have been received and 118 of these have been approved for payment.

In 2023, a training expansion of 550 seats in critical health training programs began. As of January 2024, approximately 80% of new places were available for the 2023-24 academic year, and even more will be available this year.

This year's budget supports an additional 66 places across six training programs, including Registered Nursing, Registered Psychiatric Nursing and key interprovincial training programs: Cardiology Technology, Diagnostic Cardiac Sonography, Nuclear Medicine Technology and Environmental Public Health.

Additionally, Saskatchewan will receive four new health training programs: occupational therapy, speech-language pathology, physician assistant and respiratory therapy.

An allocation of $1.5 million this year will support a new incentive to encourage students attending health care training programs in other provinces where Saskatchewan has invested in dedicated training positions to come home. The incentive provides up to $15,000 per academic year for up to two years in exchange for three years of work in Saskatchewan.

In fall 2024, the number of undergraduate slots in the College of Medicine will increase from 104 to 108, while the number of postgraduate slots will increase from 128 to 140. Eight of these seats are aimed at urban family medicine and will be established by 2025 in specialties such as the new anesthesia and dermatology places in Regina. The college has allocated 135 seats in the current 2024 residency competition.

Tim McLeod, minister of mental health and addictions, seniors and rural and remote health, said the province wants to ensure people get medical help close to home.

“Our government has made it a priority to stabilize and strengthen health care in rural, regional and northern communities across the province and ensure residents in these areas have access to essential health services as close to home as possible,” McLeod said.

Key spending in the HHR Action Plan this year includes $33.8 million to stabilize workforce levels in rural and remote areas. To date, 232 of the 250 targeted new and expanded full-time positions have been filled in rural and remote areas.

The Rural and Remote Recruitment Incentive will receive $8.7 million to continue filling hard-to-recruit positions. The program has provided 305 incentives so far.

This year, eight additional seats will be added to the Saskatchewan International Physician (SIPPA) program in addition to the current 45 seats in the program to bring more physicians to regional, rural and northern communities. Thanks to SIPPA, more than 300 doctors are currently practicing in the province.

The province presented additional HHR progress updates:

  • Since December 2022, 1,097 nursing graduates have been hired from Saskatchewan and beyond.

  • 225 internationally trained health workers from the Philippines have arrived in Saskatchewan and 135 of them, most of them nurses, are now working in communities across the province.

  • The Final Clinical Placement Bursary, which helps students prepare for a career in healthcare, has generated significant interest, with 196 applications approved for disbursement as of March 31, 2024.

  • The Saskatchewan Health Care Recruitment Agency has participated in eight regional, three national and two international recruitment events and hosted seven virtual recruitment events.

For details on health care options, how to access them and more information about the province's HHR action plan, visit saskatchewan.ca/HHR.