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Cap on doctors could mean 'loss of tremendous talent' for Alberta, student leader warns

Provincial committee looking at number and distribution of physicians in bid to curb health-care costs

rizzuti

Franco Rizzuti, president of the Canadian Federation of Medical Students, says students are worried about the province's plan to control the number and distribution of doctors as part of its effort to curb health care spending. (Jennifer Lee/CBC)

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Student leaders say Alberta could lose out on top medical talent if the number of physicians is capped — which is one of the options the province is considering as it tries to curb health-care spending. 

The province has set up a committee to look at the number and distribution of doctors as part of the new compensation agreement it struck with physicians last fall.

The committee — made up of doctors' groups, government officials and medical school representatives — is also looking at how to get physicians to rural and remote communities where they are needed. 

Alberta Health says its new strategy, which it hopes to implement in 2017, will allow for roughly the same number of new doctor positions as medical grads who stay in Alberta every year.

In 2015, the province saw a net increase of 454 doctors — 194 of them Alberta grads.

Franco Rizzuti, president of the Canadian Federation of Medical Students, says students are worried.

"We could have students who would otherwise want to come practise in Alberta, who are strong candidates [and] would bring a lot of expertise and skills to the province ... choose not to study in Alberta because they're worried about the inability to have a job here afterward," he said.

"So there's definitely a concern about a loss of tremendous talent to the province."

Samantha Sirianni, the Cumming School of Medicine faculty representative for the University of Calgary Students' Union, is also worried about the provincial strategy.

"We do see a problem," she said. "If they cap the number of physicians in the province they won't take as many students into the med schools, whether it be at U of C or U of A. This, I think, will cause a domino effect."

"Those students who would have gotten into med school any other year, will no longer be able to and they'll go either out of province, and spend their money elsewhere or they'll go into another field and displace students who maybe have a really big passion in that field."

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