British Columbia

Incentives, programs to help recruit health-care professionals to northern B.C., health minister announces

More than $6 million in funding will go towards providing financial incentives, assistance for travel, housing and child care.

A total of $6.38 million in funding will also help communities like Pemberton and Ashcroft

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix is pictured in a COVID-19 briefing in February 2021. On Tuesday, Dix announced $6.38M for incentives and programs to help encourage health-care professionals to work and live in northern B.C. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

The province's health minister announced more than $6 million in funding to help recruit and retain more health care workers in northern B.C.

"Every person living in the North deserves to have the best possible health care close to home, when and where they need it," Adrian Dix said on Tuesday.

He said a total of $6.38 million will help to create rural retention programs and encourage health-care workers to move and live in northern B.C., through financial incentives, assistance for travel, housing and child care.

"We are helping more people choose the North by providing support for the unique challenges northern health workers face every day," Dix said.

In partnership with the Northern Health Authority, the ministry will provide more than $800,000 for the Travel Resource Program (TRP) and another $225,000 for child care programs with extended hours to support health-care workers who are often working 12-hour shifts.

Approximately $825,000 will also go toward launching the Rural Urgent Doctor in-aid (RUDi), which is a 24/7 virtual support system for doctors and other health-care professionals.

"These investments will contribute significantly to addressing the recruitment and retention challenges that northern B.C. and so many jurisdictions are experiencing," said Colleen Nyce, board chair, Northern Health.

"People are the foundation for the provision of quality care, and it's important we invest not only in recruiting staff, but in ensuring staff and physicians have the supports they need."

Progress made for emergency health services

Dix also provided an update on Tuesday to the B.C. Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) and the progress the ministry has made since their announcement in July to hire more paramedics and dispatchers, and get new ambulances.

He said starting next month, 24 ambulance stations in communities such as Tofino, Lake Cowichan, Port McNeill, Lillooet, Pemberton, and Ashcroft will be converted from on-call paramedic staffing to 24/7 stations with eight full-time paramedics. 

In addition, 26 smaller stations will add more permanent, regular paramedic jobs starting Nov. 1.

A B.C. Ambulance paramedic cleans his ambulance in Lions Bay, B.C., in April 2020. Dix said 26 smaller ambulance stations will be able to hire more permanent, regular paramedic jobs starting Nov. 1. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

"The significant progress made by B.C. Emergency Health Services over the summer will ensure a more effective ambulance service for patients and families who depend on it," Dix said.

"Better support for paramedics and dispatchers will help them do the vital work we count on every day."

About 85 new paramedic positions and 30 new dispatcher openings will be filled between October and December, including the 295 full-time and part-time paramedic positions posted by BCEHS in early July.

Dix said between 2017 and 2019, the province added 115 new paramedic positions to support direct patient care and improve service and response times. Since the beginning of 2021, he said 271 paramedics positions have been filled.

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