As opposition critics point out the former Conservative government was not working hard enough to solve this problem. Now Stelmach seems to be promising more than may be possible. The announcement shows lack of research and consultation on the problem. This is from the Edmonton Sun.
February 6, 2008
Stelmach promises more docs
By JEREMY LOOME, LEGISLATURE BUREAU
Premier Ed Stelmach promised yesterday to increase the number of doctors graduating in Alberta by 225 per year over the next four years if re-elected - a plan so ambitious that the province's top doctor doesn't think it's possible.
Noting Alberta already has the best retention rate for doctors, Stelmach kicked off his election campaign by saying his government's long-term health strategy, announced last fall, includes an increase of 258 post-secondary training spaces for health workers.
Stelmach then went on to announce the province would "create new physician training spaces over the next four years to graduate an additional 225 doctors per year.
"The Progressive Conservative plan recognizes and responds to our labour shortages in the health-care professions and ensures that capital investment and patient care will be available when and where Albertans need them," said Stelmach.
But according to Dr. Trevor Theman, registrar of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta, that is likely not possible: although the need is there, it would require a near-doubling of current training spending from the province and involve recruiting dozens of more people to train them - with staff to train physicians already an issue for the existing 250 spots.
"Edmonton and Calgary are already maxed out in their ability to train, and even if there were more money, it's an issue of human resources," said Theman. "You need trainers available and you need people who have clinical experience to handle that training."
In fact, the only way to achieve the province's doctor target, said Theman, would be by relying chiefly on recruitment of overseas physicians, which is already the province's principal new source of doctors.
Liberal Leader Kevin Taft predicted it would be an issue in nursing as well.
"It's pretty obvious that the Tories didn't do their homework on this one - it's one more random act of government, isn't it? They keep lurching around looking for off-the-cuff solutions to long, complex problems that they've allowed to fester over a period of years."
Taft said he fully expects Alberta will need that many additional doctors, but said the process should've started years ago. His party's platform on recruiting, which will be released later in the campaign, won't involve numbers that haven't been run by experts first, he said.
"This isn't something where you can flick a light switch and solve the problem," he said. "Sometimes I think Ed just bounces around like a pinball on this stuff, taking any suggestion that's thrown at him. But he was the biggest cheerleader when the province was cutting all of these areas."
New Democratic Party Leader Brian Mason said his party has spent years warning the Tories that there were shortages in medical training and that he's concerned they would make such a fundamental mistake.
"The fact that the plan to fix this is fundamentally flawed, that however doesn't surprise me," he said. "Here's the real problem: They should've started fixing these issues six years ago, or even earlier, when they were first identified," said Mason. "Then it could be done in a reasonable way. This is why Alberta needs a government that can spot problems early on and has the political courage to tackle them head on."