Alberta is looking for ways to train doctors in smaller cities in hopes they will be more likely to help relieve a shortage of physicians in rural areas.
Health Minister Jason Copping and Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides say the government is providing $1 million to four Alberta post-secondary institutions to look for ways to train doctors in Grande Prairie and Lethbridge.
Alberta has medical schools at universities in Edmonton and Calgary, but Copping says training doctors outside the big cities increases the odds of graduates practising in the province's smaller municipalities.
Todd Anderson of the University of Calgary's medical school says there are a wide variety of options being considered, including stand-alone schools.
The University of Lethbridge and Northwestern Polytechnic in Grande Prairie are also involved in the program.
Anderson says research suggests three-quarters of doctors who train in rural areas end up practising in one as well.
Copping says the project will take six to eight years to show results.
"It's going to take time to set the program up," he said Thursday. "That's a long-term strategy. But if you don't start, you'll never get there."
Meanwhile, rural health care continues to experience staff shortages. On Thursday, the Milk River Health Centre Emergency Department announced it would close until Monday due to a doctor shortage.
Nurses were to remain on-site to provide care for long-term care residents.
Copping said Thursday's announcement was just one part of the government's health-care strategy.