The Saskatchewan government says there are 650 more doctors practicing in the province compared to nine years ago.
Part of the credit for the increase goes to the Saskatchewan International Physician Practice Assessment (SIPPA) program which has added 190 doctors since 2011; 96 per cent of those doctors are in rural areas.
Indian Head is one of the smaller communities that has benefited from the SIPPA program with five international doctors coming through in the past several years. Two of those doctors just completed the requirements to practice medicine in Canada.
“We have just been granted another two doctors and they have actually signed on for three years and they are both living in the community, so we are very grateful for that,” said Indian Head Mayor Sherry Kirpa.
“I just believe the SIPPA program is fantastic to bring doctors to smaller towns and get them introduced to the doctor way of life. However, I do like the new twist in it that they have to sign for three years, I just feel that two years wasn’t long enough. Plus I’m really happy that they’re engaging in living in the community, I think that’s very important.”
After fighting to retain regular health care services, the small community of Craik also now has access to a doctor three to four days a week through the SIPPA program.
Communities like Broadview, Esterhazy, Canora and Preeceville also recently gained more doctors through the SIPPA program.
More doctors who train in the province are also staying here with 75 per cent of new graduates from the College of Medicine choosing to practice in Saskatchewan, compared to 58 per cent two years ago.
University of Saskatchewan College of Medicine doubled the number of post-graduate physician training seats and added 40 more undergraduate seats bringing the total up to 100. New medical graduates who practice in communities smaller than 10,000 people also can apply to have up to $120,000 forgiven from their student loans.
A new planning tool introduced by the provincial government estimates the need for 350 more doctors in the province in the next six years.