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Sask. to spend more than $5 million to expand training for future healthcare workers

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The Government of Saskatchewan is pledging to spend $5.5 million to create more than 550 spots for 18 post-secondary healthcare programs.

“The scale of this expansion in our healthcare training capacity is unprecedented," Minister of Advanced Education Gordon Wyant said, announcing the funding at Saskatchewan Polytechnic Tuesday.

"It demonstrates our government's commitment to strengthen our healthcare workforce. A workforce that we all depend on."

The province is looking to make more seats available at post-secondary institutions, not only to grapple with vacancies in the current workforce, but working towards a growth plan that could see 1.4 million people calling Saskatchewan home by 2030.

As the government touts a $60 million plan to add more than 1,000 healthcare workers to the system over the next few years, it wanted to bolster opportunities at home rather than rely solely on recruitment missions like the one recently held in the Philippines.

"This is sustained growth," Health Minister Paul Merriman said. "This is exactly what we need to make sure we're growing over the next few years. What we need is to grow people from within Saskatchewan to stay in Saskatchewan."

Medical laboratory assistant, continuing care assistant, primary care paramedic, licensed practical nurse, pharmacy technician, clinical psychologist, physical therapist and mental health and addictions counsellors are just some of the programs seeing an increase.

The largest increase in any program is for continuing care aides, which will see 181 more spots allotted in Saskatchewan. The paramedic program offered at Sask. Polytechnic will increase from 152 to 252 spots.

Scott Van Breda is a medical radiology technology student at the school. He plans on working in rural healthcare when his studies are completed.

"We are being told to be advocates for healthcare, advocates for the patients we will be treating and also ambassadors for Saskatchewan," he said.

Merriman said grants, bursaries and other incentives are available for students seeking work in specific areas of the province.

"There's a better chance of them staying in Saskatchewan, certainly if they're from rural areas," Merriman said.

The announcement also included interprovincial training increases outside of Saskatchewan. The University of Alberta, the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, Northern Alberta Institute of Technology and the British Columbia Institute of Technology will all increase spots for Saskatchewan students.

The speech language pathologist program at the University of Alberta will take 35 students from Saskatchewan as part of the agreement.

Many of the seats will be made available in the fall. Remaining seats will be available as the instructor, facility and equipment capacity is finalized, as well as the interprovincial agreements.

The initial funding announced on Tuesday is meant for institutions to hire faculty, purchase equipment and recruit students in time for the fall semester in September. 

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