If you are a dentist desperate for a job, you may perhaps consider looking towards the mountainous Saskatchewan province in western Canada.
Not that anyone is calling for urgent reinforcements from abroad. Only the province's College of Dental Surgeons says it is facing a major dentist shortage. Two-thirds of the graduates from the University of Saskatchewan's dentistry school leave the province every year, and the current contingent of dentists is rapidly approaching retirement age.
AdvertisementSaskatchewan has the second-lowest number of dental professionals per capita in the country, and nearly half of those currently working in the industry are older than 50 and nearing retirement age, according to college registrar Bernie White.
"There's a definite problem in retaining students in Saskatchewan, that's for sure," third-year dental student Nekee Jamal said. "Even people from Saskatchewan may want to go to the big city, too."
Jamal, who attends the University of Saskatchewan, counts himself among the minority of students in his class who is committed to staying in the province.
Gerry Uswak, the acting dean of the College of Dentistry, said the solution to retaining more young people like Jamal is to offer financial incentives to young dentists.
The model would follow that of the College of Medicine.
"The College of Medicine has ... bursaries to retain their students. They have incentives to create practices in underserviced areas," Uswak said. "We're asking for the same kind of consideration."
He added that updating and upgrading the College of Dentistry's aging facilities would also entice Saskatchewan's dentists to stay, since much of the equipment is more than 30 years old.
While increasing the number of students would help, accommodating more students in additional training programs without expanding clinical infrastructure would be a problem.
"We'd like to address the needs to expand enrolment and our scope of programming, but we can't without an injection of resources," Uswak said.
The College of Dental Surgeons is hoping to get a piece of the political pie as the upcoming election draws nearer. Improving and protecting healthcare services, particularly in regards to the dentist shortage, will be a big issue for them in the vote.
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