As part of the Province’s work to make sure British Columbians have access to high-quality primary care, new rural residency spots for family doctors in training are being established in the Kootenay-Boundary region.
“Physicians who train in a region tend to stay and practice in that area. As the first and main entry point for patients, primary care in rural communities is a hub,” said Health Minister Terry Lake. “That’s why we are working to increase the supply of physicians and multi-disciplinary team-based practices, expanding the capacity and quality of care, and training physicians to help in areas of need, such as rural B.C. communities.”
“Our strategy on primary care is about working towards a patient-centred care model that works best for British Columbians,” said Bill Bennett, MLA for Kootenay East. “And it’s not just doctors that play an important role – its nurse practitioners, social workers, primary care and chronic disease nurses, dietitians, community pharmacists and many other care providers.”
This 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 since 2013.
“This new training site represents a significant development for the Kootenay Boundary region, and will help enhance access to physician services and improve patient care in our region. It will also support future physician recruitment and retention to our area by providing medical residents the opportunity to experience how gratifying it is to practice medicine in a rural area, and encourage them to consider a future career in rural family practice,” said UBC Faculty of Medicine’s Dr. Cheryl Hume, family medicine residency site director for Kootenay-Boundary.
“The Kootenay-Boundary community has enthusiastically welcomed the inaugural group of family medicine residents to our area. We are all very excited to have these residents with us, and appreciative of the opportunity to be part of UBC’s innovative distributed medical education program,” added Hume.
Kootenay-Boundary is now one of eight rural sites across the province. Four family practice residents started practicing in the region in July and four more will start in 2016, for a total of eight residents per year in the Kootenay-Boundary area. Distributed education has established UBC’s Family Medicine residency program as one of the largest in Canada with approximately 300 residents in the program at any given time.
”We welcome the expansion of the residency spots in rural areas as another step in addressing patient needs,” said Doctors of BC president, Dr. Charles Webb. “The challenge of attracting and retaining doctors in rural communities is well known, but we are committed to working collaboratively with all our partners – government, physicians, health authorities and others to help recruit and retain physicians in communities experiencing physician shortages.”
Over the course of their two-year residency training, the Family Medicine residents will have the opportunity to work in a variety of communities, including Trail, Nelson, Quesnel, Hazelton, Golden, Salmon Arm, Alert Bay, Osoyoos, Creston, and Grand Forks. After two years of residency training, qualifying residents go on to become family doctors.
Kaslo also recently welcomed two new physicians to the Kootenay-Boundary area, who will be sharing a full-time position at Victorian Community Health Centre starting on Sept. 1, 2015.
The ministry and Doctors of BC are working together to improve primary care on the ground in partnership with Divisions of Family Practice – community-based groups of family physicians – and in collaboration with local partners. There are now more than 33 Divisions of Family Practice throughout the province working to create targeted solutions driven by local needs to improve people’s access to primary care, including:
- recruiting new doctors, and preparing for physician retirements,
- introducing team-based approaches to care (models of care), with a range of health professionals who work together with doctors to provide care to patients, and
- helping family doctors increase their office practice capacity 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 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 strategy, 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.