BC announces plan to strengthen healthcare HR
November 1, 2022
VICTORIA – British Columbia has announced a wide-ranging program of investments in the healthcare sector’s human resources. The strategy aims to address shortages of professionals by ramping up training and education, as well as through the expansion of technologies and services.
“We are taking the next step in increasing access to public healthcare for people in BC,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “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 healthcare 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.
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 BC.
- 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.
- There will be efforts made to attract and onboard new healthcare workers by removing the barriers for people education abroad.
- The creation of a provincial artificial intelligence and health workforce technology strategy.
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.
Optimizing the scope of pharmacists means pharmacists can safely provide many drugs by injection or intranasally and adapt or review many prescriptions, relieving pressure on primary care providers and enabling people to access some types of care more quickly.
Once regulations are in place, it is expected patients may be able to get prescriptions from their local pharmacists for treatments for minor ailments, such as allergies, indigestion and acne, and for contraception. For example, a patient with a urinary tract infection may be able visit a local pharmacy for assessment and recommendations for treatment, instead of seeing a primary care provider, such as a doctor, or visiting the emergency room at a hospital due to a lack of options.
Community pharmacists will have additional support in renewing some prescriptions if needed for people who do not have a family doctor or consistent primary care provider.
For example, pharmacists will now be able to administer long-acting antipsychotics by injection in a community pharmacy. They can also renew opioid agonist therapy for patients with substance use, up to the quantity last prescribed.
New regulations enhance the work of paramedics and first responders. People will now have more primary and emergency care services with new regulations in place that expand the range of services that paramedics and first responders can provide.
With the appropriate training and licensing in place, paramedics and first responders will be able to better assist and treat patients on scene. For paramedics, depending on licensing level, this means the ability to provide more interventions such as:
- enhancing airway management skills; and
- providing expanded life support and pain management procedures and medications during transport.
First responders will be able to:
- provide additional diagnostic testing, such as blood pressure and blood glucose while on scene, that can better inform paramedics;
- administer epinephrine when needed for a life-threatening allergic reaction; and
- support the preparation or packaging of patients for transport by paramedics.