Changes to Canada Student Loans Program don't help medical residents or the doctor shortage

    OTTAWA, Aug. 27 /CNW Telbec/ - The Canadian Association of Internes and
Residents (CAIR) and the Canadian Federation of Medical Students (CFMS) today
expressed their disappointment with the federal government for missing an
opportunity to improve access to a medical education and to bring long-term
benefits to the future health of all Canadians.
    The long awaited changes to the Canada Student Loans Program, announced
in Kitchener yesterday by Minister Solberg failed to address, despite repeated
appeals by CAIR and the CFMS, the high debt load carried by medical residents.
    A student who chooses to study medicine not only faces high tuition fees
in medical school but then enters a residency training program - a period that
could last up to 6 years - that is also associated with high costs.
    The average debt carried by a medical resident is $158,728 with average
monthly payments of $1978. Yet, resident debt keeps growing during residency
training because medical trainees pay interest and principle on government
student loans throughout training. This kind of financial burden has negative
implications to the Canadian health care system.

    Evidence shows that:

    - high levels of resident debt deters trainees from choosing careers in
      family medicine where the physician shortage is greatest;
    - medical trainees from rural areas of Canada are less likely to practice
      in rural and under serviced areas because of debt load;
    - resident debt creates financial barriers that can limit access to a
      medical education. This creates a medical workforce with a lack of
      diversity with respect to economic and cultural background, as often
      only the wealthiest Canadians can even imagine taking on such debt

    CAIR and the CFMS have, over the last several years, made repeated
appeals to government officials to make changes to the Canada Student Loans
Program that would allow medical trainees in residency programs to defer
payments and accruing interest on their federal student loans until the end of
    "We have repeatedly asked the government to recognize that the financial
burden that residents face is having significant negative consequences on
Canada's health care system", said CAIR president, Jean Pierre Martel. "We
hoped that the government would invest in the future of Canadian healthcare
and take a step that would help resolve Canada's physician shortage but we now
question the government's commitment in addressing this issue."

    About CAIR

    The Canadian Association of Internes and Residents (CAIR) is the national
representative body for over 7,500 Resident Physicians in Canada. CAIR works
collaboratively with other national health organizations and all levels of
government to continuously improve patient care and explore new approaches in
the delivery of health care.

    About CFMS

    The Canadian Federation of Medical Students (CFMS) is a national
organization that comprises of over 8000 medical students pursuing their
medical careers in 13 Canadian medical schools from coast to coast and
provides specialized Services, Communication and Representation to Canadian
medical students. In addition, CFMS offers essential information for people
who want to pursue a Canadian medical education and information for former
CFMS members.

For further information:

For further information: Beth Sneyd, CAIR Programs & Services Manager,
(613) 234-6448

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