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Alberta doctors sound alarm over low number of grads seeking residency in province

Highest number of family medicine spots vacant in a decade after first-round resident match

The number of medical residencies in Alberta that went unfilled has grown during the last decade, especially in family medicine, data from the Canadian Resident Matching Service shows.

Numbers released last week show that 12 per cent of Alberta's post-graduate training spots for doctors went unfilled this year after a first round of matching.

It's the highest first-round vacancy rate in a decade, which the president of the Alberta Medical Association said is alarming news for the supply of future doctors.

"To me, that just screams we're failing," AMA president Dr. Fredrykka Rinaldi said in an interview. "People aren't interested in staying or coming to Alberta."

Alberta's health minister and medical school deans tried to quell those concerns, saying there is still time for doctors in training to fill the vacant positions.

Last week, Health Minister Jason Copping said he's asked the deans whether international medical graduates can assume any vacant spots that are typically reserved for Canadian medical graduates, should they still be empty when the process is complete.

"Let's find a plan to ensure that no spots go empty, because we need them," Copping said in an interview.

Many doctors will establish a practice where they complete their post-graduate training.

The Canadian Resident Matching Service, or CaRMS, each year takes stock of all students graduating from the country's 17 medical schools and their preferred specialty and locations, and tries to match them with residency training programs. Each university also ranks their top picks.

In these two-to-nine-year programs, doctors train in family medicine, psychiatry, pediatrics, surgery and other specialties.

Most of the approximately 3,400 graduates participating each year will get a match in the first round. Others get a placement in the second round. Most provinces also have a set number of resident training seats reserved for doctors who went to medical school outside Canada.

The number of Alberta residencies in family medicine that are vacant after the first-round match has grown over the last decade, CaRMS data shows.

Although some programs in Quebec have trouble filling their residency posts, most universities in Western Canada have had few or no spots remaining when the match is finished in recent years.

But last year in Alberta, 17 positions remained vacant.

The latest match results follow Copping's announcement the United Conservative Party government will add 120 medical school training seats and 100 more resident positions during the next several years.



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