MONTREAL -- Facing health-care staff shortages, Quebec will expand its medical schools by admitting an extra 139 students over three years, it announced Friday.

The new plan will add 71 extra students right away, in the first year, said a release from Quebec’s Ministry of Health and Social Services.

In the second incoming group of first-year students, there will be 14 extra spots, and in the third, 54.

“We are facing a shortage of personnel within the health and social services network,” said Quebec’s health minister, Danielle McCann, in a statement.

“The rapid aging of the population, now exacerbated by a pandemic, has showed how important it is to correct this situation in order to maintain an adequate level of service.”

On top of meeting the needs of an aging population, more students are also needed to make up for attrition in the workforce as more doctors retire, she said.

The minister responsible for education, Jean-François Roberge, said Quebec would need “an increase in medical manpower” in the coming years and that the extra students would gradually make health care more accessible to Quebecers.

“It is now that we must act,” he said.

Each year’s worth of medical students in the province already contains about 830 to 930 students, so the difference only adds a fraction of each class’ total number. For example, the first year will have a total of 901 new students, 71 of whom will be newly added, according to the numbers released.

Students from outside Quebec will also be able to enroll, as usual—62 spots are reserved for out-of-province students in the 2020-2021 school year.

The province decided on the exact numbers by consulting with many groups involved to understand the capacity of different medical schools and what it would take to reorganize their training networks and “off-campus projects,” it said.