Doctors Driving Taxis. In a Pandemic? Really??

Break the bottleneck and get more health care workers into the system - NOW!

Have you ever gotten into a taxi driven by a medical doctor? It happens all the time, and there is no reason for it.

Even two years into a pandemic this is happening, and it’s a lose-lose-lose situation. BC misses out on the contribution they could make. And they are deprived of the opportunity to work at their highest capacity to build a better life for their family.

Despite hundreds of Canadians and landed immigrants trained as doctors already here today, these highly trained professionals are often not allowed to work or finish training here, despite what the Government tells us is a critical shortage of doctors and nurses in BC.

I’ve heard from people and families all over the province about the impact of shortages, and my family has experienced it first hand. I’ve been talking for months about common sense ways to increase the supply, especially with a growing dependency ratio of seniors requiring care over the coming years.

A shocking article this weekend highlighted the barriers for International Medical Graduates (including Canadians who studied at medical schools abroad) to get their residency training here.

But here’s the thing: these are people who did medical school outside of BC, which saved us tonnes of money, since taxpayers pay for most of the cost of medical school. Now they want to do their on-the-job residency training - providing an enormous amount of health care labour to the system at a terrific discount - and we say there’s no room for you here? We also lose out on the potential for them to stay after their residency and practice here. Again - don’t we keep hearing there is a healthcare worker shortage?

As the article points out:

In British Columbia, more than 1,100 physicians jobs are unfilled, an estimated 700,000 to 900,000 British Columbians are without family doctors and even before the pandemic surgery wait times often exceeded recommended benchmarks.

Even before the pandemic, Canada ranked 26th of 28 countries in terms of physicians per capita. Canada has 2.9 per 1,000 people, which is well below countries like Austria (5.3) and Norway (5.2), according to the Fraser Institute.

Obviously, the experience and quality of internationally trained medical professionals varies - that’s why rigorous assessments and upgrading are important to ensure we don’t diminish the high standards of care that we expect from our Canadian medical system.

This is a complex situation to resolve, but the bottom line is this: the BC Ministry of Health needs to fund more residency positions for internationally trained doctors who pass the test.

Break the bottleneck and get more health care workers into the system - NOW!

We could have more health care workers in the system now (again - residents perform enormous amounts of healthcare during their on-the-job-training) and get fully-trained family doctors up and running in communities around BC. in 2 years (the length of their residency). But the NDP continues to drag their feet while talking a big game about vanity projects like a new medical school that will take 10 years to be built and produce its first class of doctors.

This is yet another reason why it’s time to convene the Select Standing Committee on Health, a committee of the Legislature that the NDP has refused to activate for more than two years as we’ve wrestled with the pandemic, with drug toxicity deaths, with the heat dome, with the catastrophic failure of ambulance services, and with the desperate need to add capacity to our healthcare system.

As Leader of the Opposition, I will be unrelenting in holding the NDP to account for these failures, but we’ll also talk about constructive solutions to make healthcare better for people and families all over British Columbia.


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