David Eby stands in front of a sign that reads "More Doctors."

Photo Credit: Darryl Dyck | Canadian Press

New International Doctor Plan is Way Overdue

David Eby lays out plans to get patients the care they need

We’ve had a whole lot of doctors available, we just weren’t letting them work

We’re short on doctors and nurses.

With the healthcare system in crisis, David Eby has just announced new measures to help get people the care they need.

Recent immigrants are going to be a key part of filling the care gap.

Our province has actually become a home for many qualified care providers—we just weren’t letting them practice.

But Eby has just announced that this is going to change.

The Practice Ready Assessment program is how we test doctors trained out of Canada to allow them to practice here. But there were only a few spots available in the program each year.

Now, the number of doctors who can get qualified will be tripling from 32 to 96 by March 2024.

Once they’ve completed the program, doctors will be placed both in rural and urban communities that need more physicians. The doctors will have to stay in that placement for at least three years.

In addition to this program, international medical graduates who aren’t eligible to be licensed in BC may be eligible to work as “associate physicians.”

This means they can still care for patients, they just need to work under the direction and supervision of another doctor.

Medical grads in this program can manage less complicated patients, which would free up licensed doctors to spend more time with folks who need complicated treatment.

The regulatory college is also preparing bylaw changes to allow doctors trained in the United States for three years to work in BC communities.

The bylaw changes are expected to come into effect in the coming weeks. Hopefully that would allow those doctors to practice by January.

Eby said despite the challenges our system has been facing, universal healthcare is one of Canada’s greatest achievements. The problem is that healthcare has been underfunded for decades. Then we hit the pandemic, which made a bad situation worse.

Still, Eby says that doesn’t mean the wealthiest get to buy their way to the front of the line.

“We can’t privatize our way to a better healthcare system, and we can’t cut supports and get more doctors,” Eby said.

BC Health Minister Adrian Dix said the measures now being taken are “fundamental changes.” That’s good, because that’s what is required. He also said that measures introduced in 2018 and 2019 are starting to work.

The province has doubled the number of nurse practitioners. And with associate physicians being added to the ring, there’s a healthcare team mentality coming into play.

“Which can mean counsellors, it can mean allied health workers, dietitians, nurses, and of course doctors,” he said, adding that BC has added a net total of 38,000 health care workers in the five years since he took office.

The question now is, can we repair the system enough to keep them from burning out?

We’ll see how things play out in the next year. But it seems like a good way to get good doctors in front of folks who need care, and soon.