International doctors to be taken ‘off the sidelines’
BC’s health minister said his government's efforts to expand healthcare staffing are "pretty good" amid increasing political pressure on the NDP government to get on top of a crisis that has left around one-fifth of the province’s residents without a family doctor.
Speaking during a healthcare announcement Sunday, Adrian Dix said since he took the portfolio five years ago, there has been a 38,000 net increase in healthcare workers including doctors, nurses, and health science professionals.
“And you know what? That’s pretty good, that’s impressive in these times; these challenges,” Dix said at a media briefing, before committing to similar increases in the coming five years. The government has said, like other provinces, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed challenges and added further strains in the health-care system, with too many B.C. residents struggling to find a family doctor.
Last month, BC opposition leader Kevin Falcon called on Dix to resign, saying after five years in the position the province’s healthcare system “is crumbling.”
The latest in a series of measures being undertaken by the government is to bring more internationally trained doctors to British Columbia, which represents significant changes that will make a difference in the lives of people receiving primary care, Dix said.
"We know our province needs more physicians in the short, and in the long term. And these actions, historic actions today, will help address that need in a meaningful way."
Dix said each new doctor has the capacity to help over a thousand patients and, in turn, bring other healthcare workers into the system.
“If you look at our agreement with the doctors, you’ll see that each doctor could be responsible … for 1,200 patients. So, when you talk about adding doctors every year, that’s what you’re talking about in terms of attachment to patients, it can be a significant thing,” he explained.
Dix added each doctor also brings with them the scope to expand a team that includes nurse practitioners and other specialists like dieticians.
The province says it is taking action to get more internationally trained doctors "off the sidelines and into clinics, where they're so desperately needed."
Speaking alongside Dix, premier David Eby announced the province is expanding the number of seats available in the Practice Ready Assessment program to 96 by March 2024, tripling the number of internationally-trained family doctors who can become licensed in B.C. each year.
Sixteen of those spaces will be reserved for doctors assigned to rural and remote communities throughout the province, Dix noted, while another 16 could be directed to either rural or urban and suburban areas in need.
In another change, Eby said international medical graduates who are not eligible to be fully or provisionally licensed in B.C. may now be eligible for a new "associate physician" class of registration with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C.
That would allow them to care for patients under the supervision of an attending physician within acute-care settings administered by health authorities, he said.
Eby said the regulatory college is also preparing bylaw changes to allow doctors trained in the United States for three years to practise in community settings in B.C., including urgent and primary care centres, community clinics and family practices.
The bylaw changes are expected to be implemented in the coming weeks, with the aim of allowing those doctors to practise in B.C. communities by January.
--With files from The Canadian Press
Published 2022-11-28 by Glenn Hicks
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