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Foreign recruits ease rural shortage, IHA says

August 16, 2016 11:35 A.M.

A program that recruits internationally trained physicians to fill shortages in rural communities had made progress in the in its first year.

A total of 38 physicians have been placed in various Interior communities, Interior Health reported.  

The doctors undergo a rigorous assessment process, spending three months with a B.C. physician to evaluate skills in practice. Physicians successfully completing the program commit to practice for at least three years in a designated rural community in need.

The first group of 14 doctors assessed through Practice Ready Program started in their new communities in July 2015: McBride, Hazelton, Quesnel, Dawson Creek, Fort St. John (two), Terrace, Castlegar, Lillooet (two), Invermere, Port Hardy, Comox, and Powell River.

In January 2016, 11 international medical graduates were assessed as practice ready and placed in communities of need: Chetwynd, Quesnel (two), Houston, Fort Nelson, Prince Rupert, Campbell River, Princeton, Logan Lake and Ashcroft (two).

In July 2016 the third cohort Spring 2016 enabled 13 international medical graduates to successfully pass their assessments and move on to provisional licensure with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C. 

They will start their three-year return of service in August/September in Quesnel (three), Chetwynd, Dawson Creek, Tumbler Ridge, Enderby, Keremeos, Nakusp, Logan Lake, Trail, Ladysmith and Port Hardy.

Another 15 international medical graduates will be assessed in the fall. Two additional cohorts of up to 15 internationally trained physicians each will be assessed in the spring and fall of 2017 – for a total of up to 30 practice-ready family physicians in 2017.

Ther program is rurally focused and doesn't apply to Kamloops, where the physician shortage is chronic. Health officials are hoping that the newly opened RIH Clinical Services Building, together with a UBC Medical School teaching facility, will attract more physicians. An estimated 10,000 city residents don’t have a family doctor. As well, Health Minister Terry Lake has held out promise in the form or an urgent care clinic planned on the North Shore.

A wave of retiring family doctors across B.C. has exacerbated a long-term GP shortage.

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