The Brandon Medical Education Study was released Wednesday. (TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)
A stand-alone medical school at Brandon University proposal has been deemed ‘ill-advised’ because western Manitoba’s population base is too small, according to the Brandon Medical Education Study that was released to the public on Wednesday.
Instead, the report offers a progression of steps, such as offering more residencies to Brandon and other hospitals, eventually leading to a satellite medical school that works in conjuction with the University of Manitoba.
"The study recommends focusing on more rural medical residencies and doctors, when they are in that final stage of their studies, they start making those decisions on where they want to practice and very often that’s the point when they start putting down roots in the community," Manitoba Advanced Education Minister Erin Selby said. "Those decisions are often linked to where they want to where they want to practice afterwards."
The study examined how to recruit and retain more doctors to serve in rural Manitoba, and one of the recommendations — to create more residencies in Brandon, Steinbach, as well as the Boundary Trails hospital between Morden and Winkler — has already started. Ten more residencies are recommended to start next year, with increases of seven positions each year for four years also planned.
"That’s an effective way to encourage more doctors to practice in rural Manitoba because they have already started to develop connections with the community," Selby said.
There were other components to the 10 key recommendations listed in the report, such as ensuring rural students have access to medical school spots and that the University of Manitoba plan for an increase in the number of students wanting to work in rural, remote and underserved areas. Once the residencies are in place, rural clinical teaching units will be set up in Brandon and other communities for third- and fouth-year medical student.
While the 110 spots at the University of Manitoba medical school are considered adequate for the province’s population, plans to increase capacity to 130 students may be required, and it’s at that point a satellite campus could be considered for Brandon, Thompson, Steinbach, Boundary Trails and/or Dauphin.
"When we came into office, there were 70 seats in the medical school and now there are 110," Selby said. "A population of our size is probably best served with 110 to a maximum of 130, but should we be looking down the road at increasing seats, that’s what the study recommends. We have a number of things already in place to help increase the number of doctors practicing in rural Manitoba. We have seen an increase of 100 doctors practicing in rural communities, including 30 more since 1999. The study reinforces some of the things we are already doing."
If the plan is completely adopted, it would cost Manitoba taxpayers $43.7 million in capital funding and $11.2 million in operational spending, a government spokeswoman said. She added the province offers free tuition to doctors willing to practice in rural areas for at least 2.5 years.
Calls placed to Brandon University president Deborah Poff were not returned by press time.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 26, 2012