The Towns of Bonnyville and Elk Point will write letters to support the organization, Rural Physicians Action Plan (RPAP). The organization, which awarded the Town of Bonnyville with the prestigious 2015 RPAP Alberta Rural Community Physician Attraction and Retention Award for the Doctor Recruitment Program, is under review and needs support to display its viability.
RPAP’s Executive Director, David Kay explains in a blog post entitled, Alberta Wouldn’t be the Same Without RPAP some of the reasons for the organization. “In face of tough economic times and tightening wallets, the need for quality healthcare in rural communities remains. If [our stakeholders] value the programs and services provided by RPAP, and wish to have them continue in [their] community, we [are] respectfully requesting input as to the valuable contribution RPAP has made and will hopefully continue to make in [their] communit[ies].”
Mayor of Bonnyville, Gene Sobolewski spoke to Council earlier in the month that because of all the support RPAP has given the community, he felt an obligation to return the favour with a letter of support. Council agreed with the Mayor’s stance and supported a motion to write the letter. Kay explains, “RPAP’s role is now under review and threat, as the government seeks to ensure there is an alignment with Alberta’s rural health system needs and outcomes.” The organization is under review, explains Kay, “In the interim, the department has indicated it will provide only a six month extension to RPAP’s grant funding, which expires on 31 March 2016. It is expected that recommendations on the fate of RPAP will be provided to the Deputy Minister by that time, with possible recommendations being service reductions, or even closure.”
The Town of Elk Point, felt much like Bonnyville, and Council voted to write a letter of support for RPAP, as well.
During its history, RPAP has played a strong supporting role, particularly when it comes to physician recruitment and rural medical education. Without [rural Albertan’s] input, decision makers deciding the fate of RPAP will not have a clear understanding of the impact of RPAP programs to rural Albertans and the valuable services we provide in your community. – David Kay Executive Director RPAP
In the same blog post, Kay explains the important role RPAP plays in rural Alberta, “for approximately 0.0005% of Alberta’s entire annual health budget, RPAP supports rural healthcare in the following ways:
- Supports and sponsors rural students to go to medical school
- Facilitates and funds the rural placements of medical students and Family Medicine residents so that they might select rural practice as a viable option upon graduation
- Works with resident physicians in career planning
- Attracts and transitions Canadian and internationally trained physicians, and Alberta-trained resident physicians to available posts in Alberta
- Provides professional development programs and locum services for rural physicians
- Supports the recruitment of all health care providers through our cutting edge provincial recruitment jobsite APLJobs.ca
- Provides grants to local communities for attraction and retention innovations, and fund medical students and resident physicians to attend rural health care conferences and training events
- Works with rural communities through attraction and retention committees to attract and retain physicians and their families
- Listens to rural communities, health care workers, and service partners and acts on their ideas
- Works collaboratively within Alberta, across Western Canada, and nationally to support health care in Alberta
- Invests in research and analysis to tell the story about rural health care and Alberta’s physician workforce”
“RPAP is making a valuable contribution to the attraction and retention of physicians in rural Alberta. RPAP has a clear vision and mission which are underpinned by a number of objectives and goals. The initiatives within each goal align with both the direction of the goal and with each other. “
The report also noted that physicians, residents and medical students surveyed all reported that RPAP was a positive driver within the rural Alberta health care environment.
“All three user groups stated that RPAP initiatives provided them with insights into rural practice and rural community living that might otherwise be unknown to them. Medical students felt that they were exposed to the advantages of rural practice through RPAP initiatives, and that the initiatives informed their career choices. Furthermore, medical students and residents reported that RPAP initiatives influence their decision to pursue rural practice. The seven-year retention rate of rural physicians has increased, year on year, as has the number (headcount) of physicians practicing in rural Alberta.”