B.C. government makes announcement about improvements to healthcare system

B.C. healthcare investments

UPDATE: 1:05 p.m.

As part of wide-ranging new investments in B.C.'s healthcare system, the provincial government is funding new undergraduate and post-graduate seats at UBC's Faculty of Medicine, including at UBC Okanagan.

During a press conference Thursday, the province announced UBC's Faculty of Medicine will open up 40 new undergraduate and 88 new post-graduate positions beginning next fall.

These new seats will be across all of the faculty's sites, including at Kelowna's Southern Medical Program, along with Vancouver-Fraser, Northern and Island Medical programs. The distribution of these new spaces across the program sites were not disclosed.

In addition to expanding UBC's Faculty of Medicine, the province has also provided $1.5 million to Simon Fraser University, to establish B.C.'s second medical school at its Surrey campus.

That program likely won't begin admitting students until the 2026/27 school year though.

The expansion of medical training in the province is one move the province is taking to address current and projected issues with B.C.'s healthcare system.

The system has been particularly stressed during the COVID-19 pandemic and the toxic drug supply crisis. Emergency Departments across B.C., particularly in some smaller rural communities in the Interior, have faced frequent temporary closures in recent months due to staff shortages. By 2032, the demand for health services in B.C. is expected to increase by 14%.

And it's not just a B.C. problem. The World Health Organization forecasts a global shortage of 15 million healthcare workers by 2030.

In addition to increasing post-secondary medical training, the province is also working to “expand the scope” of the 6,500 registered pharmacists in the province. Beginning Oct. 14, pharmacists will be allowed to administer a wider range of medicine, and by spring 2023, they'll be allowed to issue prescriptions for less acute ailments.

In a one example, a patient with a urinary tract infection currently must be assessed by a primary care provider like a family doctor, or at a walk-in clinic or emergency room. But by next spring, that patient will be able to be assessed at their local pharmacy.

The province is also expanding the type of care first responders will be allowed to provide.

These three “near-term actions” are part of 70 total actions the province plans to implement over the next five years to improve healthcare workers' satisfaction and the public's access to healthcare.

ORIGINAL: 12:55 p.m.

B.C.'s Minister of Health Adrian Dix and Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Training Anne Kang provide an update on health care improvements being made in the province.

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