As part of the Province’s work to make sure British Columbians have access to high-quality primary care, 11 internationally trained physicians will begin practicing in rural and remote communities in B.C., including one new family doctor each for Logan Lake and Princeton and two for Ashcroft.
One of the new physicians, Dr. Deborah Obu, who is married with three children, eventually moved to B.C. after meeting with Health Match BC recruiters at a career fair with her friends in Dublin, Ireland. “Eventually, most of my friends from Ireland moved to beautiful British Columbia; it is a no-brainer that I am moving there too as the province has everything I love,” she said.
“The Practice Ready Assessment program is one of several ways we are strengthening health care in local communities, especially in rural and remote areas of the province,” said Health Minister Terry Lake. “Doctors in smaller communities provide a broad range of health care in their practices and hospitals that not only support the health and wellness of individuals, but the community as a whole.”
The Practice Ready Assessment-BC (PRA-BC) program assesses internationally trained physicians for practice in B.C. It is funded for a total of $7.6 million by the Joint Standing Committee on Rural Issues – a collaborative committee of the Ministry of Health and Doctors of BC. It is part of the Province’s strategy to strengthen access primary throughout British Columbia. Funding for the program has been extended to March 2018.
“There has been a lot of collaboration between the Interior Health, the Ministry of Health, municipalities, community health committees, community members and the many other stakeholders working to address the health care needs in Logan Lake, Ashcroft and Princeton,” said Jackie Tegart, MLA for Fraser-Nicola. “Along with residents of these communities, I warmly welcome all four doctors to the region.”
As part of 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 practise for at least three years in a designated rural community in need. The new physicians will start practising within the next month.
“This program not only ensures that qualified international doctors are working in rural areas where they are most needed, but the three-year return of service also provides stable access to care for patients,” said Doctors of BC president, Dr. Charles Webb. “The partnership of Doctors of BC and the provincial government allows us to tackle rural recruitment and retention concerns in a strategic way that benefits patients, physicians and our health care system.”
Dr. Obu cannot say enough good things about her PRA-BC experience. “The whole experience was very smooth and efficient starting from the application process – it almost felt like I was the only one applying for the PRA-BC program because the Health Match staff were so responsive and their services personalized.”
“Before starting my assessment in Lillooet, I was quite uncertain of the experience ahead. However, the doctors I worked with were very kind and I remember one of them saying to me ‘I know you are an experienced physician and have worked hard to get to this stage, now let us assess and assist you get ready to practice in Canada,’” she said. Any question was answered, and every concern was addressed.
“I was so warmly welcomed; in that instant, I knew I had made the right decision to practice in Ashcroft,” said Dr. Obu, who was greeted by 200 Ashcroft residents applauding and cheering her during a casual meet and greet with the doctor at the community hall late last year.
Dr. Obu now feels confident her family will love living in Ashcroft, and looks forward to working there.
The Province is working with health-care providers, health authorities and community agencies on a comprehensive strategy to improve access to integrated primary health care services across the province. The Practice Ready Assessment program is one component of this strategy.
It also includes the work of more than 30 Divisions of Family Practice to implement innovative changes that meet the needs of their specific communities, such as recruiting new doctors and preparing for retirements, introducing team-based practices, helping general practitioners increase their capacity to accept new patients, using telehealth, and creating stronger links between family doctors and community support services.
The ministry has also introduced incentives for family doctors to care for more patients with complex care needs or frailty, and is exploring different types of practices in more rural areas, such as Fort St. John. In addition, the province has introduced community paramedicine – expanding paramedics’ roles to support rural communities with some primary care – and is working with the First Nations Health Authority on a number of primary care projects specific to First Nations communities.
To learn more about the Practice Ready Assessment-BC program, please visit: http://www.prabc.ca/
To read the Ministry of Health’s strategic document, Setting Priorities for the B.C. Health System and the accompanying policy papers, please visit: www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/topic.page?id=EF73BCF3DE34484CB4DBA9E34092402C
A backgrounder follows.