USask, provincial government to increase support for internationally trained family physicians

Rural and remote Saskatchewan communities will benefit from an increased number of internationally trained family physicians through additional provincial funding to the Saskatchewan International Physician Practice Assessment (SIPPA) program.

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SIPPA is a University of Saskatchewan (USask) College of Medicine program that assesses International Medical Graduates (IMGs) on their knowledge and clinical skills before they begin independent practice in the province.

In the Government of Saskatchewan’s 2022-23 budget, $1.1 million in new funding was announced to increase the number of SIPPA seats for IMGs by 25 per cent, from 36 seats to 45 seats annually. The funding will also be used to enhance supervision of physicians following their initial clinical field assessment and provide resources, support, and mentorship to these physicians as they establish practice in Saskatchewan communities. 

“Throughout Saskatchewan’s history, international physicians have been integral to our health care,” said Dr. Jon Witt (MD), medical director of SIPPA for the USask College of Medicine. “IMG family physicians complement the existing work of the Family Medicine residency training program. These programs work together to support the needs of rural, underserved communities.”

“Our government is making significant investments in this year’s budget to attract and retain physicians, especially in rural, remote and northern areas of the province,” said Mental Health and Addictions, Seniors and Rural and Remote Health Minister Everett Hindley. “An enhanced SIPPA program will have a meaningful impact on rural physician recruitment and retention in Saskatchewan.”

The SIPPA program was launched in 2011, and provides three assessment intakes per year. Due to the success of SIPPA, there are currently 257 additional physicians practicing in the province, with the vast majority of them (78 per cent) practicing in a rural or regional community. The increased support to SIPPA will lead to improved physician recruitment and retention, which means more physicians will be available to practice in Saskatchewan communities.

The College of Medicine’s Division of Continuing Medical Education (CME) administers the SIPPA program in the province.

“The CME division is pleased and proud to continue to support Dr. Witt and his SIPPA team as they continue their important work of educating international physicians so they may be better prepared to care for patients and families in underserved communities across Saskatchewan,” said Dr. James Barton (MD), CME associate dean. 

The SIPPA program is developed and co-ordinated with key partners including USask College of Medicine, CME, Saskatchewan Health Authority and saskdocs, College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan, and the Ministry of Health.

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