Memorial University said Tuesday it wants to accept 10 more Newfoundland and Labrador students each year to its medical school, suggesting those students will work in the province once they graduate.
The Health Department and the university both announced a request for proposals, looking for a company that can analyze structural and faculty requirements to expand the school’s annual cohort in the years to come.
“We know that students from Newfoundland and Labrador, who study in Newfoundland and Labrador, tend to stay in Newfoundland and Labrador,” Health Minister Tom Osborne said Tuesday.
“This will be a source of a physicians.”
The medical school currently accepts 80 students every year, with 65 of those spots reserved for what the faculty considers a Newfoundland and Labrador student — someone who completed high school in the province and lived there for at least three years prior to applying.
The school is now looking to expand its intake to 90 students each year, creating room for 75 students from Newfoundland and Labrador.
“We do want to increase the number of seats, but we need to make sure we do it right,” Osborne said. “We don’t want to increase capacity where capacity is difficult to achieve.”
Osborne added that this year, more residents — 42 of them — signed three-year contracts to work within Newfoundland and Labrador, about a dozen more than last year.
“We’ve focused on recruitment of our own,” Osborne said. “It is working.… We’ve had a significant increase in this year in the number of residents that want to and are willing to stay in Newfoundland and Labrador.”
Shoring up future prospects
Tuesday’s announcement comes as the province struggles to keep rural emergency rooms open amid a critical shortage of doctors and nurses.
The Health Department has implemented several other recruitment and retention strategies, most recently giving nurses a pay bump and sending canvassing teams to India and Ireland in hopes of attracting foreign workers.
The medical school’s acting dean, Dolores McKeen, said almost 60 per cent of its students remain in the province after they graduate, many of them outside urban centres.
“Memorial University has received recognition for our success in matching learners to rural training programs and for having the highest percentage of our graduates actually work in remote and rural locations,” she said, referring to a Society of Rural Physicians Canada award.
McKeen said the medical school had just under 200 local applicants last year.
“If you are a Newfoundlander applying for medical school here in Newfoundland, we do have very good success rates in terms of the ratio of students that are successful, and we’re very proud of that,” she said.
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