Alberta Liberal leader Raj Sherman speaks during a stop at Red Deer North Liberal candidate Michael Dawe's campaign office Wednesday morning.

Liberal leader says rural medical training key to retaining doctors and nurses

Expanding medical training in rural communities and smaller-sized cities will help to attract and retain family doctors and nurses, said Alberta Liberal Leader Raj Sherman during a Red Deer campaign stop on Wednesday.

Expanding medical training in rural communities and smaller-sized cities will help to attract and retain family doctors and nurses, said Alberta Liberal Leader Raj Sherman during a Red Deer campaign stop on Wednesday.

Sherman, an emergency room physician in Edmonton, suggested that Alberta medical schools could link with Red Deer College and Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre in providing additional training.

He’d like to see incentives for medical professionals to choose generalist fields over specialist ones and to expand medical programs into regional colleges, integrating medical training with smaller Alberta communities.

“We already have medical students and residents who train at the (Red Deer) hospital, but let’s expand upon that,” said Sherman during a news conference at the Red Deer Liberal campaign office. “Let’s go beyond doctors and get nurses and teams of health students working together and doing more of what we’re doing now.”

Training family doctors in the province, and in particular smaller areas, must be a top priority, Sherman said.

“Secondly, let’s pay them right and thirdly, let’s give them a team because a doctor can’t do their job all by themselves.”

The Liberals have pledged to help students to relocate and choose family medicine out of a $100-million fund for new health and wellness initiatives, but Sherman added they would “do whatever needs to get done.”

He blamed the governing Conservatives for cutting residency spots, saying that has kept family doctors from other countries from getting back to work.

“Ask them to serve in smaller communities of rural Alberta and we’ll get them their residency,” said Sherman.

Sherman vowed his party would invest $400 million towards public care for seniors, whether at home, at a lodge setting or in long-term care.

“And let’s get more nurses and higher level staff to care for our seniors,” Sherman said. “The problem is the government has wanted to privatize seniors’ care.”

If the party wins the April 23 provincial election, the Liberals would hold an independent public inquiry into the health-care system, dissolve the Alberta Health Services superboard and get rid of all the political appointees on that board, as well as three levels of managers. He advocates for locally elected health boards. Michael Dawe, Red Deer North candidate, was the last chair of the Red Deer board.

“The medical staff of Red Deer and Central Alberta know how to run their hospitals and their health-care system — let’s take the power out of the hands of the politicians and put it back in the hands of frontline staff,” Sherman said.

Sherman doorknocked in the downtown neighbourhood of Parkvale with Red Deer South candidate Jason Chilibeck for about half an hour late Wednesday morning.

Hugh Lake, a retired teacher who has generally voted everyone but the PCs, told Sherman he would consider voting for Chilibeck.

“I was a little surprised to see (Sherman at the door),” said Lake later. “I think he’s an enthusiast and would help our province. I think we have too many political parties and I think it’s going to put the Progressive Conservatives back in.”

Lake said he thinks the province is due for a change, although he said PC Leader Alison Redford is a breath of fresh air.

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