01/08/2015 10:06 EST | Updated 03/10/2015 05:59 EDT

Nova Scotia offers tuition incentive for doctors to set up practice in province

HALIFAX - Twenty-five medical graduates or doctors from outside Nova Scotia who agree to work in underserved communities for five years could get up to $120,000 of their tuition paid by the provincial government.

The government's tuition relief program is available to new graduates or some out-of-province doctors over the next four years and is aimed at keeping new family doctors and specialists in the communities where they are needed.

The program was recommended by an expert panel set up to help recruit and retain doctors.

Health Minister Leo Glavine said Thursday that the program could make a difference.

"This now is a very strong incentive to get graduates and also those who are practising up to seven years in any part of Canada or the United States to come back," he said.

Glavine said only certain communities will be eligible under the program.

"There will be a community of need identified and (the province will) work out an agreement with them," he added.

The program will be available to medical students in residency or doctors who are in the first seven years of practice outside the province.

An additional $30,000 payment is available to family doctors who are willing to practise in a community without a regional hospital and specialists who are willing to work outside the current boundaries of the Capital District Health Authority.

The president of the medical students' society at Dalhousie University in Halifax said the program could help the province in a variety of ways.

"Faced with increasing tuition costs, the tuition relief program is welcome news for medical students at Dalhousie University," Russell Christie said in a statement issued by the province. "Not only will this program represent a first step in assisting new and recent graduates repay student debt, it will have a positive impact on the health of Nova Scotians by placing physicians in underserviced areas of the province."