The family physician and healthcare worker shortage in B.C. continues to drag on, plaguing the province’s health care system with emergency room closures, extended wait times, and leaving nearly 20 percent of B.C. residents without a family doctor. The provincial Ministry of Health looks to address this crisis through its new health workforce strategy, in addition to an increase in incentives for family doctors starting practice in B.C.
The new health workforce strategy includes four areas: retain, redesign, recruit and train. The plan hopes to retain workers in high need areas and occupations by improving employee services and security, promoting health and wellness, and balancing workloads. The Ministry of Health looks to include reconciliation with First Nations in the new plan, including new cultural safety and humility standards. The recruitment and training aspect of the plan increases post-secondary seats for those entering medicine and healthcare, along with the removal of barriers for internationally educated healthcare workers.
“We are taking the next step in increasing access to public health care for people in B.C.,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health.
“Since 2017, we’ve taken significant actions to improve and increase access to health services. From performing a record number of surgeries, to increasing our workforce by over 20% and adding more health-related education seats to post-secondary institutions, we have made important progress. But we know that people are facing real challenges right now and there is much more work to do, and this strategy will guide our next steps in building a strong, resilient public healthcare system now and in the future.”
The University of British Columbia (UBC) Faculty of Medicine received provincial support to expand its medical doctor undergraduate program, adding an additional 88 seats to their allowed intake. UBC partners with health authorities and universities across B.C. to teach this program, which will now see an extra 48 postgraduate medical education positions (both family medicine and specialties) by 2029.
In addition to the additional seats at UBC, the province hopes to expand on-the-job training opportunities for healthcare professionals currently working in B.C. The provincial government offers bursaries for those entering the healthcare field, including financial incentives for family physicians who sign contracts in the province. The province said 54 new doctors have signed contracts as of October 1, 2022, providing full-service primary care in communities throughout the province.
“The health workforce is crucial to our well-being, and immediate action is needed to meet the needs of British Columbians today and beyond,” said Anne Kang, Minister of Advanced Education.
“Expanding medical school seats is a great win for us, and for students. They have better access to pursue a life-changing and important career to become the health-care heroes that help our families every single day.”
To view the full strategy by the provincial Ministry of Health, visit https://news.gov.bc.ca/files/BCHealthHumanResourcesStrategy-Sept2022.pdf.