In his first announcement of the provincial election campaign, Tory Leader Ed Stelmach promised Tuesday to train hundreds of new doctors, nurses and other health-care workers over the next four years.
Stelmach made the announcement at Edmonton's University of Alberta Hospital, which he called an example of the world-class health facilities the Conservative government has built in the province.
"We know that waiting lists and delays in seeing health care professionals are mainly due to labour shortages," he said. "The Progressive Conservative plan recognizes this and responds with aggressive actions."
The plan would add training facilities to turn out an additional 225 doctors, 350 registered nurses and 220 licensed practical nurses each year. It would take until 2012 to reach the goal, Stelmach said.
A Conservative government would also step up efforts to recruit qualified foreign-trained health-care workers, he said.
College of Physicians and Surgeons questions plan
But the registrar of Alberta's College of Physicians and Surgeons isn't so sure Stelmach's plan will work.
It could be difficult to find enough medical educators to train all those new doctors, Dr. Trevor Theman said Tuesday.
There might be other solutions to the shortage of health-care workers, he said.
"I think there are a lot of things that need to be looked at," Theman said. "And to throw my two cents in, I think we need to look at the rate of growth within the province to make sure that our infrastructure including human resources can catch up."
It is positive to hear the Tories acknowledge the severity of the problem, he added.
Health-care high schools proposed
The Stelmach plan also proposed two new high schools, one each in Edmonton and Calgary, for students considering becoming doctors, nurses or other health-care professionals.
Stelmach didn't say how much the promises would cost or where the government would find foreign medical workers.
Health care has been a key focus of a series of announcements that the Stelmach government made prior to the election call Monday, including plans for more health-care centres with long-term beds and a focus on training and recruiting additional health-care professionals.
After his Edmonton announcement, Stelmach hopped on the Tories' new campaign bus, a blue and orange coach with a giant picture of the leader and the slogan "Change that works for Albertans."