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Province seeking more incentives to attract rural health workers

Posted on April 27, 2023 by admin

By Kendall King

Southern Alberta Newspapers

Health Minister Jason Copping, and other officials, stress the importance both financial and community incentives play in attracting and retaining health-care workers across the province, especially in rural areas.

In a recent media roundtable, Copping said incentives play an important role in the government’s plan to increase Alberta’s health-care workforce, which is estimated to have suffered significant loss of personnel in recent years.

While regions across the province, as well as the nation, are struggling with worker shortages, Copping said rural areas are especially effected – calling staff shortages the ‘single biggest challenge in providing services in rural Alberta.’ And so, rural-focused incentives are necessary.

While several rural-focused incentives already exist within Alberta, Copping says work is being done to analyze the effectiveness of such, as well as to develop new incentives which focus on offering, not just finances, but also positive workplace environments within welcoming, livable communities.

“It’s not necessarily the money per se; it’s the work-life balance and the support (which attracts new workers),” said Copping. “It’s a combination of both.

“If you’re the only one providing the service in a rural area, you’re gonna be on call 24/7. That’s not sustainable, you know? If we’ve only got 60 per cent of our line filled out and that means you’re doing overtime all the time, then this is not going to be a good place (for workers to settle).”

While Copping acknowledges many health-care workers are drawn to larger centres, which often have better-staffed health facilities and thus better chance at a work-live balance, he feels rural areas have several unique benefits, including lowered costs of living, shorter commute times and often more tight-knit communities.

Local physicians working to attract new doctors to the area share Copping’s belief, and say when speaking with prospective doctors, they highlight these and other unique features.

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