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Not even bursaries and grants are enough to keep some doctors in Saskatchewan. Some have paid back the money or even skipped out of their work terms. (iStock) (iStock)

The province has sent bill collectors after five doctors who agreed to work in Saskatchewan in return for bursaries or grants and then welched on the deal. 

In total, the five owe nearly $300,000. One alone owes just over $160,000.

It's why the government is now asking the College of Physicians and Surgeons to alert licensing bodies outside the province where the doctors are now registered that they are "not in good standing" in Saskatchewan.

Three of the doctors left the country, according to the Ministry of Health.

One could not find a position in the province to match his training.

The fifth doctor went bankrupt. Three quarters of what he owed was recovered, and the rest — close to $9,000 — was written off.

The college is still considering the government's request.

Meanwhile, in the last seven years, 58 doctors have repaid their bursaries or grants — with interest — rather than finish their work term here. The Ministry's executive director of workforce planning is not clear on their reasons for leaving the province.

"They may have career choices that change as they move throughout their career," Brad Havervold said. "They may also find themselves with opportunities for subspecialty work in other organizations where their skills are more suited."

All but two received money for residency training; the remainder got grants to set up medical practices.

Still, a large majority of doctors do fulfill their return-of-service commitments. Those 58 doctors who repaid and bailed are out of a total of 485 doctors who received bursaries and grants in that same time period — totalling $11.6 million.

"Eighty-eight per cent stayed," Havervold said. "We do know that the number of physicians in Saskatchewan has increased."

That number is up by 17 per cent, also within the same time period.

The five in arrears

Case 1

Bursary awarded in 1997 for specialist residency.

In 2009, the Ministry was informed the recipient failed the specialist exam for the third and final time.

The recipient left Canada in 2010.

Amount owing: $161,424

Case 2

Bursary awarded in 2003 for specialist residency.

In 2007, the recipient delayed return-of-service to pursue subspecialty training

In 2008, upon completion of subspecialty training, there were no positions of that nature in Saskatchewan.

Amount owing: $75,000

Case 3

Specialist Practice Establishment Grant awarded in 2007; commitment was to the Prairie North Health Region.

The recipient returned some service, but left Canada in 2008.

Amount owing $22,500

Case 4

Bursary awarded in 1992.

Recipient declared bankruptcy in 1996.

Based on bankruptcy settlement, 75 per cent of the amount owing was recovered and the balance ($8,830) written off.

Case 5

Specialist Practice Establishment Grant awarded in 2009; commitment was to Regina Qu'Appelle Health Region.

Recipient returned some service, but left Canada in 2011.

Amount owing: $22,500