Alberta wouldn’t be the same without RPAP.
Founded by the Government of Alberta as the Rural Physician Action Plan, RPAP | Health Workforce for Alberta, has supported rural Alberta communities with initiatives designed to educate, recruit, attract and retain rural physicians for over two decades.
Through a sequential series of initiatives, RPAP exposes Alberta’s high school and undergraduate students, medical students, resident physicians, and practising rural physicians, to opportunities in rural Alberta, and careers in rural medicine.
RPAP is effective and efficient.
RPAP | Health Workforce for Alberta is a not-for-profit organization who receives a grant of approximately $10 million per year from Alberta Health. 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
- Measures what we do and continuously improve our programmes and supports
In December 2015, an external summative evaluation commissioned by RPAP noted:
“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.”
In summary, the report concluded: “RPAP initiatives are currently seen as the vanguard of Canadian rural physician recruitment and retention practices, and are aligned with most best practices.”
During its history, RPAP has played a strong supporting role, particularly when it comes to physician recruitment and rural medical education. Traditionally working behind the scenes to serve rural Alberta communities, 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.
According to a letter from Deputy Minister, Carl Amrheim, the strategic scope and parameters of the RPAP Review will focus on “assessing potential redundancies in funding… and where the best operational efficiencies can be gained for provincial programs.”
Underpinning the review is the contention from the province’s two faculties of medicine that RPAP’s role in rural medical education is redundant, and potentially jeopardizes their accreditation. We believe claims pertaining to accreditation are baseless, while any assertions of redundancy will be dispelled once the true picture of the value RPAP brings to rural Alberta is presented.
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.
Call to action.
In face of tough economic times and tightening wallets, the need for quality healthcare in rural communities remains. If you value the programs and services provided by RPAP, and wish to have them continue in your community, we respectfully request your input as to the valuable contribution RPAP has made and will hopefully continue to make in your community.
Please immediately contact your MLA and the Minister of Health, Hon. Sarah Hoffman, to provide your input to the review.
Without your immediate 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.
Otherwise the support you have come to expect from RPAP might not be there.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me, David Kay, at 780-423-9911, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
David Kay is the Executive Director of RPAP | Health Workforce for Alberta.