New health workforce strategy improves access to health care and puts people first
Improving care for British Columbians is at the heart of investments in workers as the province launches a health human resources strategy to optimize the health care system, expand training and further improve recruitment and retention.
“We are taking the next step to increase access to public health care for British Columbians,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “Since 2017, we have taken significant steps to improve and increase access to health services. From performing a record number of surgeries, to increasing our workforce by more than 20%, and to adding more health-related education spaces in post-secondary institutions, we have made significant progress. But we know that people are facing real challenges right now and that there is still a lot of work to do, and this strategy will guide our next steps in building a strong and resilient public health care system, now and in the future.
The strategy will support patients who rely on the public health system by adding more doctors, nurses and health science professionals, adding new education and training seats, taking steps to improve retention and optimize the system to help with the workload.
The strategy will focus on four key areas:
- Retain: Foster healthy, safe, and inspired workplaces, support workforce health and wellbeing, embed reconciliation, diversity, inclusion, and cultural safety, and better support and retain workers in high-needs areas, build clinical leadership capacity and increase engagement.
- Redesign: Balance workloads and staffing levels to optimize quality of care by optimizing scope of practice, expanding and improving team-based care, redesigning workflows, and adopting enabling technologies.
- Recruit: Attracting and integrating workers by reducing barriers for international healthcare professionals, supporting full integration and promoting healthcare careers to young people.
- Train: strengthen employer-supported training models; improving acquisition and learning programs to help staff advance skills and qualifications; expand the use of scholarships, increase training places for new and existing employees.
It is a multi-year strategy with several actions starting in 2022-23. Actions announced immediately by the government include:
- Forty new undergraduate medical education seats and up to 88 new residency seats at the University of British Columbia (UBC) medical school, to be phased in across the province starting in 2023 Expansion will create more opportunities for students and residents to learn, train and stay to practice in communities across BC
- Starting October 14, pharmacists will adapt and renew prescriptions for a wider range of medications and conditions, and they will be able to administer, following a prescription, a wider range of medications by injection or intranasally. The province is also working to extend the prescription period to two years, which is expected to come into effect on the same date. These changes will help, for example, patients with mental health and addictions issues, and 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 allow pharmacists to prescribe for minor ailments and contraceptives by spring 2023.
- New regulations allowing paramedics and first responders to provide a wider range of services to better care for their patients in an emergency.
Further actions will be announced in the coming weeks and months, with additional milestones in subsequent years. Health human resources have been a key priority for this government. This strategy and the actions set out therein will build on this foundation.
Since 2017, British Columbia has committed more than $1 billion to support healthcare workers and increase access to healthcare services for people. The province has added 602 new nursing seats and 322 additional health-related seats at the public post-secondary institution, is offering bursaries to existing health care workers and those from out of province, streamlining the process of entry of internationally educated nurses into British Columbia’s health care field. and welcomed more than 38,000 new workers to the provincial health system over the past five years.
Additionally, BC Emergency Health Services recently added over 250 net new paramedic positions across British Columbia, many of which are located in rural, remote and First Nations communities and are transitioning from a workforce occasional work to more permanent positions.
The province is investing $118 million in stabilization funding for family physicians in collaboration with Doctors of BC. The Ministry of Health is also working with Doctors of BC on a new Physician Framework Agreement and a new compensation model for family physicians.
The increase in the number of people entering and graduating from UBC medical school comes on top of ongoing work with Simon Fraser University to open the second medical school in Surrey. The province provided $1.5 million to Simon Fraser University to support planning and business case development, and a project committee was established.
To learn more about BC’s Health Human Resources Strategy, visit:
To learn more about the Health Careers Access Program, visit:
To learn more about accelerated skills training opportunities in British Columbia’s economic recovery plan, visit:
For the most recent announcement on internationally educated nurses, visit:
For the latest nurses seat announcement, visit:
For the latest Allied Health Headquarters announcement, visit:
To learn more about the Practical Nursing Access Program, visit:
For the most recent announcement on supports for family physicians, visit:
Five backgrounders follow.