New health workforce strategy improves access to health care, puts people first

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September 29, 2022

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Improving care for people in British Columbia is central to investments in workers as the Province launches a health human resources strategy to optimize the health system, expand training and further improve recruitment and retention.

“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 strategy will support patients who rely on the public health-care system by adding more doctors, nurses and health sciences professionals, adding new education and training seats, taking actions to improve retention and to optimize the system to help with workload.

The strategy will focus on four key areas:

  • Retain: Foster healthy, safe and inspired workplaces, supporting workforce health and wellness, embedding reconciliation, diversity, inclusion and cultural safety and better supporting and retaining workers in high-need areas, building clinical leadership capacity and increasing engagement.
  • Redesign: Balance workloads and staffing levels to optimize quality of care by optimizing scope of practice, expanding and enhancing team-based care, redesigning workflows and adopting enabling technologies.
  • Recruit: Attract and onboard workers by reducing barriers for international health-care professionals, supporting comprehensive onboarding and promoting health-care careers to young people.
  • Train: Strengthening employer supported training models; enhancing earn and learn programs to support staff to advance the skills and qualifications; expanding the use of bursaries, expanding education seats for new and existing employees.

This is a multi-year strategy with several actions starting in 2022-23. Actions that government are announcing immediately include:

  • Forty new undergraduate medical education seats and up to 88 new residency seats at the University of British Columbia’s (UBC) faculty of medicine, which will be phased in throughout the province beginning in 2023. The expansion will create more opportunities for students and resident doctors to learn, train and stay on to practise in communities around B.C.
  • Beginning Oct. 14, pharmacists will adapt and renew prescriptions for a wider range of drugs and conditions, and they will be able to administer, further to a prescription, a wider range of drugs by injection or intranasally. The Province is also working toward extending the valid period of prescriptions to two years, which is anticipated to be in effect on the same date. These changes will, for example, help patients dealing with mental-health and substance-use disorders, and for those without a regular primary care prescriber to access the medications they need.
  • The Ministry of Health is working with the College of Pharmacists of BC on regulations that will enable pharmacists to prescribe for minor ailments and contraception by spring 2023.
  • New regulations to enable paramedics and first responders provide a broader range of services to better care for their patients during emergencies.

More actions will be announced in the coming weeks and months, with additional steps in the following years. Health human resources has been a key priority for this government. This strategy, and the actions set out within it, will build on this foundation.

Since 2017, B.C. has committed more than $1 billion to support health-care workers and increase access to health services for people. The Province has added 602 new nursing seats and 322 additional allied health-related seats to public post-secondary institution, is providing bursaries for existing health-care workers and those from outside the province, streamlining the process for internationally educated nurses to enter B.C.’s health system, and has welcomed more than 38,000 new workers to the provincial health system during the past five years​.

In addition, BC Emergency Health Services has recently added more than 250 net new paramedic positions throughout B.C., many located in rural, remote and First Nations communities and are transitioning from a casual workforce to more permanent positions.

The Province is investing $118 million in stabilization funding for family doctors together with Doctors of BC. The Ministry of Health is also working with Doctors of BC on a new physician master agreement and a new compensation model for family practice physicians.

Expanding the number of people who will be entering and graduating from UBC’s school of medicine is in addition to work underway with Simon Fraser University to open the second medical school in Surrey. The Province has provided $1.5 million to Simon Fraser University to support planning and development of the business case, and a project board has been established.

Learn More:

To learn more about B.C.’s health human resources strategy, visit:
https://news.gov.bc.ca/files/BCHealthHumanResourcesStrategy-Sept2022.pdf

To learn more about the Health Career Access Program, visit:
https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/economic-recovery/work-in-health-care

To learn more about Fast-track skills training opportunities in B.C.’s Economic Recovery Plan, visit:
https://strongerbc.gov.bc.ca/jobs-and-opportunities

For the most recent announcement about internationally educated nurses, visit:
https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2022HLTH0120-000589

For the latest nursing seats announcement, visit:
https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2022HLTH0004-000250

For the latest allied health seats announcement, visit:
https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2022HLTH0047-001138

To learn more about the Access to Practical Nursing program, visit:
https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2022HLTH0053-001272

For the most recent announcement about supports for family doctors, visit:
https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2022HLTH0172-001282