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Health

Feds seek dental-care program ideas from industry, no details on shape it will take

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OTTAWA — The federal government has asked the private sector to weigh in on how companies could play a role in Canada’s national dental-care plan.

The Liberals set aside $5.3 billion over the next five years to launch a dental-care program for uninsured low- and middle-income families.

The have committed to starting with kids under the age of 12 in households with an annual income of less than $90,000 by the end of this year, with plans to extend coverage to under-18-year-olds, seniors, and persons living with disabilities in 2023.

The program is a key part of the confidence and supply deal the Liberals signed with the NDP to stave off a potential election until June 2025.

NDP health critic Don Davies said in a statement that the two parties recently agreed on an implementation plan for national dental care that includes learning from “stakeholders with expertise in claims processing.”

The government issued a formal request for information, seeking input from industry players between now and Aug. 22.

“Canada is exploring different models to deliver on this commitment — including a federal direct delivery option, whereby Health Canada would deliver the program itself with the support of one or more third-party benefits providers,” the government said in the document.

The government could also give cash to the provinces along with a list of coverage they have to provide.

Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos reiterated that the government hasn’t yet settled on which form the program will take. The responses from various companies, along with consultations with provinces and territories, will inform federal decisions about how to proceed, he said.

The NDP and Liberals agreed the program would be expanded to include all uninsured family members under the $90,000 income threshold before the term of the deal runs out.

In the request-for-information document, the government estimates seven to nine million Canadians would be eligible for the program once it’s fully phased in. If the Liberals contract the program out to a private firm, there would be a six-month startup phase between when the contract was awarded and when it would begin.

That would make it impossible for the Liberals to meet the end-of-year deadline to fulfil their promise to the NDP in the confidence and supply agreement between the two parties.

In the document, the government asks companies to explain whether they have the capacity to handle claims from the millions of Canadians who will qualify for coverage.

The Liberals also want to know if an “off-the-shelf” insurance plan already exists that the government could adapt to suit its needs, and how quickly that could come together.

The document asks companies to answer key questions, like what basket of services should be covered and how the program would be best delivered.

The government has also solicited advice about how to handle the complicated industry landscape, which includes provincial and territorial programs and private insurers.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 25, 2022.

Laura Osman, The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Alberta considers training doctors for rural practice in smaller centres

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Calgary – Alberta is looking for ways to train doctors in smaller cities in hopes they will be more likely to help relieve a shortage of physicians in rural areas.

Health Minister Jason Copping and Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides say the government is providing $1 million to four Alberta post-secondary institutions to look for ways to train doctors in Grande Prairie and Lethbridge.

Alberta has medical schools at universities in Edmonton and Calgary, but Copping says training doctors outside the big cities increases the odds of graduates practising in the province’s smaller municipalities.

Todd Anderson of the University of Calgary’s medical school says there are a wide variety of options being considered, including stand-alone schools.

The University of Lethbridge and Northwestern Polytechnic in Grande Prairie are also involved in the program.

Anderson says research suggests three-quarters of doctors who train in rural areas end up practising in one as well.

Copping says the project will take six to eight years to show results.

“It’s going to take time to set the program up,” he said Thursday. “That’s a long-term strategy. But if you don’t start, you’ll never get there.”

Meanwhile, rural health care continues to experience staff shortages. On Thursday, the Milk River Health Centre Emergency Department announced it would close until Monday due to a doctor shortage.

Nurses were to remain on-site to provide care for long-term care residents.

Copping said Thursday’s announcement was just one part of the government’s health-care strategy.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2023.

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Alberta

Province hopes new physician training in Lethbridge and Grande Prairie will mean more rural doctors

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Addressing rural physician shortages

To help bring more physicians to rural Alberta, Alberta’s government is working to offer physician training in Lethbridge and Grande Prairie. 

Alberta has the best front-line health-care workers in the world, and Alberta’s government is working to ensure that Albertans have access to the care they need, when and where they need it. Rural Albertans are disproportionately affected by the nation-wide shortage of healthcare workers and their community members cannot access physician training close to home.

Alberta’s government is investing $1 million to explore ways that regional post-secondary institutions, such as the University of Lethbridge and Northwestern Polytechnic, can help deliver medical education outside of Edmonton and Calgary. Research shows that positive learning experiences in rural health-care settings lead to more physicians choosing to pursue careers in rural areas.

“Over the past year, we’ve made strategic investments to address health care labour shortages, including through the largest expansion of post-secondary seats in Alberta’s history. Partnering with Alberta’s two medical schools and institutions in northern and southern Alberta to train doctors locally is the best path to ensuring we meet rural needs.”

Demetrios Nicolaides, Minister of Advanced Education

The funds will be used by the University of Alberta, University of Calgary, University of Lethbridge and Northwestern Polytechnic to support collaborative planning. This will include detailed plans to support regional health professions training centres in Lethbridge and Grande Prairie.

“Expanding medical training in rural areas creates new opportunities for students who want to remain in their communities while making other students familiar with regions of the province and types of work they may not have considered before. Expanding training opportunities is just one way we’re addressing the shortage of rural doctors to ensure Albertans get the care they need when and where they need it.”

Jason Copping, Minister of Health

Plans for rural training opportunities include hands-on learning experiences in rural communities surrounding regional hubs. These opportunities will support the recruitment of physicians to teach and train medical students and residents, while increasing access to physician services.

“An investment in rural medical training is a direct investment in the future of rural and remote health in Alberta. We look forward to building on our existing relationships with partners across Alberta and significantly expanding the opportunities for future health professionals to learn and enter practice outside our largest urban centres, toward the goal that drives everyone involved in the health professions in this province — readily available, easily accessible, world-class health care for all.”

Dr. Brenda Hemmelgarn, dean, University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry

“We at the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine are excited about working collaboratively with our colleagues across the province to provide innovative educational solutions for health workforce shortages particularly in the rural areas. There are many factors and initiatives required to help the situation and expanding physician training capacity in Alberta post-secondaries can lead to a healthier population.”

Dr. Todd Anderson, dean, University of Calgary Cumming School of Medicine

This funding is the latest investment from Alberta’s government to ensure students have access to the education, training and skills students need to succeed in tomorrow’s economy. At the same time giving confidence to industry, businesses and investors that regional workforce needs will be met.

Previously in Budget 2022, Alberta’s government announced the targeted enrolment expansion initiative which invested more than $171 million into Alberta’s post-secondary system to create nearly 10,000 new seats over three years in high-demand programs. More than 2,400 of those new seats were in nursing, health care aide and paramedic programs.

Alberta’s government has also signed a new agreement with the Alberta Medical Association. This includes $15 million annually to support physician recruitment and retention for physicians who practise full-time in underserved areas, an additional $12 million annually for the Rural Remote Northern Program, and a one-time investment of $2 million to increase funding for the existing RESIDE program that provides incentives for family physicians to practise in Alberta’s underserved rural and remote communities.

Quick facts

  • There are two medical schools in Alberta, located at the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary.
  • The Ministries of Health and Advanced Education are jointly responsible for the education of physicians in Alberta. Advanced Education is responsible for undergraduate medical education. Health is responsible for postgraduate medical education or residency training, including international medical graduates, rural medical programs, resident physician compensation, and the Academic Medicine and Health Services Program.
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