The Alberta government, Alberta Health Services and Alberta Medical Association work together on health care matters and medical services such as improving access and quality care. This work also includes physician resource planning to identify the supply, distribution and cost of physician resources that Albertans need.

Resource planning is needed

In the early and mid-2000’s, Alberta had fewer physicians per population than the national average. Efforts were made to recruit and retain more physicians, including financial incentives and amendments to legislation. This resulted in an increase in Alberta medical graduates and increases in the number of physicians coming to Alberta from other countries and the rest of Canada.

In the last few years, growth in the number of physicians has dramatically outpaced Alberta’s population growth. Between 2008 and 2017, the number of physicians per 100,000 population in Alberta grew by 23%, compared to a growth of 20% in comparator provinces. Over the same period in Alberta, per capita health expenditures to physicians grew by 66%, resulting in Alberta having the highest per capita spending on physician services in Canada.

Alberta will pay a total of $5.3 billion in fiscal 2018 to 2019 for various compensation and development programs for physicians and medical residents. This is nearly a quarter of Alberta’s health budget at 24%, with the Ministry of Health budget at 39% of the entire provincial budget.

Despite the growing number of physicians and investments in rural physician recruitment, the distribution of physician workforce remains imbalanced across different regions in Alberta, indicating Albertans are still not getting access to the physician care they need.

On average, Calgary and Edmonton have 27.2% more family medicine physicians per 100,000 population than the rest of the province.

The proportion of physicians practicing in rural and remote areas of the province continues to decline. For example, in 2008, 8.8% of physicians practiced in rural areas and in 2017 this percentage had declined to 7.2%.

Advisory committee

In August 2017, the Minister of Health established the Physician Resource Planning Advisory Committee (committee) to advise the government on the supply and distribution of physicians in Alberta.

On an annual basis, the committee recommends to the Minister the number of additional physicians required in Alberta. The committee also develops an implementation plan with recommended actions to achieve its physician resource planning goals, including action to achieve the target number of additional physicians. All committee stakeholders have a role in implementing recommended actions collectively, and within their individual spheres of influence.

Alberta Health Services’ physician workforce and recruitment planning informs the committee’s recommendation on the number of additional physicians needed each year.

Committee membership

Committee members are health system stakeholders working together to provide the Minister of Health with recommendations for physician resource planning in Alberta.

Members of the Physician Resource Planning Advisory Committee are:

  • Alberta Health – Associate Deputy Minister (Chair), and Assistant Deputy Minister (Vice-Chair)
  • Alberta Health Services – President and Chief Executive Officer, and the senior executive responsible for health workforce planning
  • Alberta Medical Association – Executive Director, and one member of the association
  • College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta – Registrar
  • University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry – Dean
  • University of Calgary Cumming School of Medicine – Dean
  • Medical Students’ Association (University of Alberta) – President
  • Medical Students’ Association (University of Calgary) – President
  • Professional Association of Resident Physicians of Alberta – President and Chief Executive Officer
  • Alberta Rural Health Professions Action Plan – Executive Director
  • Alberta Advanced Education – Assistant Deputy Minister responsible for post-secondary programs and accountability