Doug Currie

Health Minister Doug Currie says the family medicine sponsorship program is worth supporting despite the number of participants. (CBC)

The family medicine sponsorship program — intended to entice new medical school graduates to work in rural P.E.I. — is a success says the provincial government, even though it hasn't signed on as many students as originally hoped.

When the return-of-service program was introduced in 2012, the province planned to sponsor three Island students, offering them $110,000 each while they were at school if they promised to practise on P.E.I. for five years.

But only one student signed on that year.

The next year, the program was made available to more students, but again, only one signed on. At the time, second-year students told the Health and Wellness Department that it was too early to make a commitment.

So the province offered an $80,000 sponsorship to third-year students for four years of practice.

25 and single

Health Minister Doug Currie says he recognizes that working on the Island may not be for everyone, but the department is happy to have some students on board.

"There's lots of competing demand for resources in health care and, if there's needs and demands for vacancies in rural communities in Prince Edward Island, we're going to continue to support those initiatives," said Currie.

Craig Malone, who is going into his third year of medicine this fall, says the program was a perfect fit.

"You know, I'm 31 years old with a wife and a growing family. We knew for sure that we both wanted to be here," said Malone.

But Malone says many of his classmates just aren't ready to commit to work on P.E.I. for four or five years.

"Some of the people in my class are 25 and single, so to commit the better part of the next decade to a community in rural P.E.I. was probably a little bit more daunting for them than it was for us."

The program will continue to be evaluated, says Currie.