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 six family doctors in the North.
Two doctors will practice in Quesnel and one doctor each in Chetwynd, Houston, Fort Nelson and Prince Rupert.
“The Practice Ready Assessment BC 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.”
One of the physicians, Dr. Joseph Obanye, who is practicing in Quesnel and completed his 12-week assessment in Valemount, calls the Practice Ready Assessment (PRA) “One of the best programs for internationally trained physicians wanting to work in Canada, as it benefits the patients, the doctor and the community in general,” he said. Together with his wife, they moved from the U.K., in a move he described as “now or never.”
The PRA 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 to primary care throughout British Columbia. Funding for the program has been extended to March 2018.
“Our collective efforts with Northern Health, the Ministry of Health, northern communities, Doctors of BC and other stakeholders to improve health care in the north are starting to show results,” said Mike Bernier, MLA for Peace River South. “Through this work, we are seeing more doctors discovering the supportive communities of the North where they can establish their practice and homes.”
“I appreciate Dr. Obanye’s decision to move his family to Quesnel to start a practice here as our community has much to offer,” said Coralee Oakes, MLA for Cariboo North. “On behalf of Quesnel, I welcome Dr. Obanye, who joins us as one of the two new physicians within our community. This is a huge boost for families in the area.”
“We know that having a regular family doctor is an opportunity for health concerns to be addressed more proactively and can mean better health and wellness for patients,” said Pat Pimm, MLA for Peace River North. “These new doctors not only bring their education and experience to support their patient’s health, but will also support those doctors already practicing in the area. I know they are warmly welcomed.”
“Congratulations and welcome to each of the doctors starting their new practices in Chetwynd, Quesnel, Houston, Fort Nelson, and Prince Rupert,” said John Rustad, MLA for Nechako Lakes. “As a life-long Northerner, I encourage you to discover the beauty, diversity and many unique experiences of rural living in your new home communities.”
“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.”
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 practice for at least three years in a designated rural community in need. The new physicians will start practicing within the next month.
“I was immediately welcomed with open arms in the community of Valemount. The community was so warm, so receptive – I’ve worked all over the U.K., from Wales, to Brighton, everywhere and never had the same connection with a community. The people of Valemount have a heart of gold,” said Dr. Obanye of his first placement. “I’ve already made so many friends in the northern communities.” Dr. Obanye anticipates creating the same sense of community as he works with patients in Quesnel.
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.