New medical residency positions for B.C.

Up to 20 new family medicine residents positions will be created in B.C. over the next four years after federal funding of $5.9 million was announced last Wednesday (February 23).

“This project will provide the necessary medical training for new family medicine residents and equip them with the skill set needed to practice in areas throughout the province,” said Asia-Pacific Gateway minister Stockwell Day in Vancouver.

The funds will allow the province to expand its International Medical Graduates (IMG) BC Program at the University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Medicine. All new positions will be in family medicine and will be distributed to health authorities that include rural communities.

“IMGs will also train and return service in health regions across the province, supporting our commitment that every resident of B.C. who wants a family physician will have one by 2015,” said B.C. Health Services Minister Colin Hansen.

The announcement comes after news broke earlier this month that all four doctors in Burns Lake have either resigned or intend to move by May – a development that would leave the northern B.C. town of 10,000 without any doctors. The doctors cited very heavy workloads in their reasons for wanting to leave.

At last Monday’s (February 21) council meeting in Tumbler Ridge, Coun. Jerrilyn Schembri ironically noted that Burns Lake residents would have to drive 30 to 40 minutes to get healthcare should the doctors leave. For Tumbler Ridge residents, any non-emergency care after hours requires a drive of at least one hour, often through poor highway conditions, she said.

At the meeting, council also learned about the progress towards a planned hospital replacement in Burns Lake. That project is the top priority in Northern Health’s capital plan. The regional health board held meetings in Burns Lake on February 14 and 15, where they told the community Northern Health is working hard to avoid gaps in service posed by the medical staffing situation.

The federal health funding comes from the government’s Pan-Canadian Health Human Resources Strategy, which supports and facilitates innovation in health human resources to help bring about an adequate supply of health care providers.