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August 28, 2003
For immediate release

Minister Provides Update on Physician and Nurses Recruitment Strategies

Health and Social Services

Health and Social Services Minister Jamie Ballem today provided an update on the success of the Physician Recruitment Strategy and the Nurses Recruitment and Retention Strategy.

In February 2000, government implemented the four-year, $4.2 million dollar Physician Recruitment Strategy to address serious challenges in physician resources. The strategy included funding for family practice and specialist training, new medical school seats, medical trainee sponsorships, student loan assistance, location grants, relocation cost assistance, locum support, continuing medical education, hiring a recruitment officer, enhancing recruitment resources, and incentives to attract international medical graduates.

"In the early 90's, there were about 140 physicians practicing in the province, one physician for every 928 people," said Minister Ballem. "Today we have a total of 176 practicing physicians, one physician for every 800 people. This year alone, we have hired six family physicians and 11 specialists."

Minister Ballem also gave an update on the success of the Nursing Recruitment and Retention Strategy, a four-year plan to address immediate and long-term requirements for registered nurses in the province.

The Strategy consists of a student sponsorship program, which provides financial assistance to third and fourth-year nursing students who agree to work in our province upon graduation, a new Summer Student Employment program to give nursing students added exposure in the health care system, refresher program cost assistance, established funding for clinical education resources, more resources into recruiting student nurses and nurses living away, and funding to help with relocation costs for nurses who move to the province.

"In 2000, we committed to creating 60 new nursing positions and the Strategy has been successful to date. We will continue our efforts to recruit additional nurses," Minister Ballem said. "In three years since the Nursing Recruitment and Retention Strategy was introduced: the Bachelor Degree in Nursing Sponsorship Program has provided funding for over 100 students, which will result in 194 years of service; the Summer Bachelor of Nursing Student Employment Program made way for 230 summer employment placements for nursing students in health care; 120 students interested in health care professions are hired annually through the Health Care Futures program; in 2001, the number of seats at the School of Nursing at UPEI increased by 31 percent (14 seats); and the Nursing Refresher Program reimbursed tuition fees to 13 candidates who successfully completed the Refresher Program through ANPEI and who commit to work anywhere on PEI for one year following registration."

In December 2001, the Health Human Resources Supply and Demand Analysis identified demand, supply, and predicted surpluses and shortages in major occupational groups during the next five-year period. The results of this study provided specific information on the current supply of professionals and immediate and future needs.

The Minister noted, "This valuable information has enabled us to move forward to address shortages and anticipated shortages in all health professions. For example, we have had a health recruiter employed by the system since 2000 and a health human resource planner since 2001, four new Speech Language Pathologist positions have been created and two Radiation Therapist students were sponsored in 2003."

"This past April we arranged to purchase three seats per year for each of the next three years to provide guaranteed access for Islanders in the Medical Laboratory Technology program at the New Brunswick Community College. Each of these students have committed to working in the health care system in Prince Edward Island after graduation."

Minister Ballem said, "Government is committed to ensuring an adequate supply of physicians, nurses and other health professionals in the province, now and in future. We will continue to work to fill the vacancies in the system through active recruitment, by enticing Islanders to return home to work in PEI, by attracting new health care professionals to the province and by working with regulatory bodies to make it easier for internationally trained professionals to work in Prince Edward Island."

Media Contact: Connie McNeill
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