© Photo special to The Guardian.
A federal government plan to try and attract nurses and doctors to rural areas will help P.E.I. in its recruiting efforts, says Health Minister Doug Currie.
The federal government recently announced a new initiative to forgive a portion of Canada Student Loans for nurses and doctors who practise in rural areas, which in P.E.I.'s case will include most of the province.
Currie said it adds to what the provincial government is already doing with its recruiting efforts.
"This basically strengthens our ability to attract in rural Prince Edward Island," he said.
Starting in April, the federal government will forgive up to $8,000 in Canada Student Loans per year for doctors working in rural or remote communities, up to a maximum of $40,000 over five years.
For nurses or nurse practitioners, the government will forgive up to $4,000 in loans per year, up to a maximum of $20,000.
To be eligible, a doctor, nurse or nurse practitioner will have to live in a designated community, which has a core population of fewer than 50,000 people and is outside provincial capitals.
That leaves doctors and nurses working in Charlottetown ineligible.
In order to qualify, the doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners will have to meet certain criteria, such as working in a designated community for a full year.
For doctors, the debt relief could add to an already sizeable incentive from the province, which is going to start giving $110,000 in signing bonuses and money for their education as long as they commit to working in P.E.I. for five years.
The province announced its incentives in November and Currie said the federal government's program would help with what P.E.I. is doing.
"I see that as a positive," he said.
In a news release, federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said her government was doing its part to encourage family doctors and nurses to serve in rural and remote communities and improve access to primary health care.
"Our government is committed to strengthening health care for all Canadians," she said.
The Canada Student Loans Program will start accepting applications for student loan forgiveness on April 1 and further details can be found at www.canlearn.ca.