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Concerns raised over Alberta’s growing population amid loss of health-care workers

Alberta is booming once again, but with that boom comes concerns over the province’s health-care system.

According to the latest figures from the province, Alberta’s population increased by 194,000 people from October 2022 to October 2023, a 4.3 per cent increase from October 2021 to October 2022 – the highest spike Alberta’s population has seen since 1980.

The population growth comes as some 20,000 health-care workers left Alberta in 2023, according to Statistics Canada.

Friends of Medicare says without help, Alberta’s health-care workers will continue to leave the province or the field altogether.

“Over half of doctors are considering leaving the system or leaving the province,” said executive director Chris Galloway.

“We’ve seen similar studies from nurses’ unions, and others say over half of the health-care workforce is looking at leaving health care altogether or leaving their jurisdiction because they’re burnt out.”

Galloway says he is hopeful the upcoming provincial budget will provide more support for health-care workers to stop the bleeding.

He says without new infrastructure spending and more staff, the crisis will only deepen.

“There’s no comprehensive workforce planning. There’s no retention plan, and there’s no recruitment or training attached to any of that,” Galloway said. 

“If we don’t do that, we’re not going to keep our facilities open and folks are going to continue to struggle to access primary care, hospital care and other health care.”

CTV News reached out to the province for comment regarding the impact of the population boom on the province’s health-care services and infrastructure.

Andrea Smith, press secretary for Health Minister Adriana LaGrange, said in a statement that population growth is among several factors that are considered when assessing health-care needs of communities across Alberta.

“We are working to ensure Albertans have equitable access to appropriate health care services, no matter where they live.

“Over the last fiscal year, we have made record investments to increase the capacity of the health system, including $257 million to support family medicine. Work is also underway to address priority objectives including reducing ambulance response times, decreasing ER and surgical wait times, and attracting more frontline health workers to deliver the care patients expect and deserve.

“At the same time, the government is investing in transformational efforts to increase access to primary care and home care services – shifts that will help Albertans get the right care, in the right place at the right time to increase the overall capacity of the health care system.

“As part of efforts to refocus the health care system, Alberta Health is also taking a more active role in planning for health system capacity to ensure the system can continue to meet the needs of Alberta’s growing population.”

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