08/03/2012 01:38 EDT | Updated 10/03/2012 05:12 EDT

Loan purge for remote health workers starts in 2013

Family doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners who work in rural areas will soon get a portion of their Canada Student Loan forgiven.

The federal government on Friday re-announced the loan-forgiveness program first unveiled as part of budget 2011. The new information is that the program will start in spring 2013.

Family doctors and residents in family medicine are eligible to receive up to $8,000 per year in payments to their outstanding loans, to a maximum of $40,000 over five years.

Nurses and nurse practitioners will be eligible to receive up to $4,000 per year to a maximum of $20,000 over five years.

The program applies to most communities with a population of 50,000 or less, including communities that provide health services to First Nations, Inuit and Metis populations.

When it was first announced, the program was cricized by some as being an ad hoc repair rather than a permanent fix to the challenge of convincing healthcare professionals to stay in those areas and build a career.

Others said there is a risk to sending new graduates to work in remote areas.

Maura MacPhee, a nursing instructor at the University of British Columbia, said many new nurses aren't experienced enough to deal with the limited resources and challenges in those areas.

"It's a very dangerous thing to put new nurses, in particular, into an environment where they don't have the organizational supports and the leader or management supports that we know are very important," MacPhee told CBC News in March 2011, when the loan-forgiveness program was announced.