The funds will be used over three years to help students pay for the costs of medical school. In exchange, students will complete residency training in rural Alberta and agree to practise in a rural Alberta community when their schooling is complete.

The Rural Health Professions Action Plan (RhPAP) will administer the new Return of Service Agreement program. RhPAP is a trusted and experienced organization that for the past 30 years has supported the efforts of rural Albertans to maintain an accessible health workforce close to home.

“We are pleased for this new program to get off the ground to get more doctors working in rural areas. Return of Service Agreements will give Albertans in rural and remote areas timelier access to a family doctor. With RhPAP’s decades of experience working in this area, they are perfect partners to manage this program.”

Tyler Shandro, Minister of Health

RhPAP will consult with rural partners to determine program details, which will be announced at a later date.

“We are pleased that the government is taking steps to focus on the needs of rural health care. Physicians look forward to collaborating on further initiatives in the future. Involving medical students (and resident physicians) in both the planning and implementation of physician resource strategies will be essential.”

Dr. Paul Boucher, president, Alberta Medical Association, and Dr. Samantha Myhr, president, Section of Rural Medicine, Alberta Medical Association

Alberta Health is spending about $90 million this year to address rural physician recruitment and retention. With the additional investment, RhPAP funding will increase to nearly $9 million annually.

“RhPAP’s demonstrated expertise administering support programs for present and future rural physicians makes this initiative an ideal fit for our organization, and reinforces our role as a trusted and collaborative partner for rural Alberta communities and Alberta’s medical schools.”

Dr. Gavin Parker, board chairperson, RhPAP

Quick facts

  • RhPAP is a non-profit organization established in 1991 by the Alberta government. Originally, it focused on supporting practising rural physicians, but has since grown to be a broader rural community health workforce attraction and retention resource, an ally with Alberta’s medical schools, and a collaborative partner for rural Alberta communities trying to achieve greater access to health care.
  • For more than 10 years, RhPAP has successfully managed student awards, bursaries and physician continuous medical education programs with Return of Service Agreements.
  • Educating physicians for rural and remote service is a vital societal need. Factors including rural upbringing, positive undergraduate rural exposure and targeted postgraduate exposure outside urban areas are consistently associated with greater probability of physicians choosing to practise in rural communities.
  • 72 per cent of rural family medicine program graduates from the University of Alberta and 66 per cent from the University of Calgary are practising in rural and regional communities.
  • 57 per cent of Rural Integrated Community Clerkship program graduates from the University of Alberta and 66 per cent from the University of Calgary are practising in rural/remote and regional communities. Through the program, third-year medical students are placed in rural communities to gain experience and training.
  • According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, Alberta had about 800 rural physicians in 2019.