As part of the Province’s work to make sure British Columbians have access to high-quality primary care, 14 internationally-trained physicians will begin practicing in rural and remote communities in B.C. this month, including two new family doctors in Fort St. John.
This program, funded for a total of $2.8 million by the Joint Standing Committee on Rural Issues – a collaborative committee of the Ministry of Health and Doctors of BC – is part of the Province’s strategy to strengthen access to family doctors and other primary care providers for individuals throughout British Columbia. Through this work, almost 66,000 patients in B.C. have been matched with a GP or other primary care provider since 2013.
“Congratulations to the physicians who have completed the Practice Ready Assessment and are now set to begin work in B.C.,” said Health Minister Terry Lake. “We know that for patients, a strong relationship with their primary care team is an important part of proactively maintaining health. These new doctors will positively impact both the personal health of their patients as well as that of their new community.”
“The collaboration by the community, the province and many other stakeholders to increase much needed access to primary care in Fort St. John, is coming to fruition,” said Peace River North MLA Pat Pimm. “This support will be extended to these new doctors as they start their practices.”
The 14 internationally trained physicians represent the first group to participate in the new Practice Ready Assessment pilot program. In the program, doctors undergo a rigorous assessment process, spending three months with a B.C. physician who evaluates their skills as they care for patients. Physicians successfully completing the program commit to practice for at least three years in a designated rural community in need.
This fall, a second cohort of 16 physicians will go through the program, which is a partnership between the Ministry of Health, Doctors of BC, regional health authorities, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC and the University of British Columbia.
“Internationally trained physicians continue to enhance and complement the physician workforce here in British Columbia,” said Dr. Alan Ruddiman, co-chair, Joint Standing Committee on Rural Issues. “In many of B.C.'s rural communities these physicians are the backbone of primary care and hospital services, and we value their skills and expertise. The Practice Ready Assessment program supports this strong tradition of excellence in care.”
The Practice Ready Assessment program is part of the Province’s strategy to strengthen access to primary care services through improved recruitment, retention and innovative practice models, such as interprofessional teams. The Province, health authorities and Doctors of BC, in partnership with more than 30 Divisions of Family Practice throughout the province, are working to create targeted solutions to increase access to primary care driven by local needs, including:
- recruiting new doctors and preparing for retirements,
- introducing team-based practices, with a range of health professionals who work together to provide care to patients, and
- helping general practitioners increase their office practice capacity in order to accept new patients.
The Rural and Remote Division of Family Practice specifically focuses on supporting physicians who work and live in rural British Columbia.
To help ensure improved health care for British Columbians in every region of the Province, the Ministry of Health has developed the overarching strategy, Setting Priorities for the B.C. Health System. As part of this, a series of policy papers – with a focus on primary and community care, rural health services and health human resources – were created to help guide the province as stakeholders throughout the system work together to build a better health system.
A backgrounder follows.