B.C. launches plan to tackle doctor shortage, emergency room congestion

John Horgan aims to set up regional primary care networks in a ‘team-based’ approach

The NDP government launched its new primary healthcare plan on Thursday, with Premier John Horgan promising it will deliver faster and improved access to healthcare.

“The kind of care people need, and how it’s delivered, has to change. It’s no longer as simple as a doctor-patient relationship,” said Horgan. “We need to be looking forward and providing team-based care that better meets the needs of British Columbians.”

The plan includes the NDP government’s election promise of 10 new urgent primary care centres to be set up over the next year and help take the pressure of hospital emergency rooms. Those will help people who don’t have a family doctor or nurse practitioner, as well as operate on weekend and hours outside of clinics.

“Our priority is to find new ways of working, co-ordinating services and delivering care so that British Columbians don’t have to wait so long, travel so far, and search so hard for the care they need,” Health Minister Adrian Dix said.

The government will also look to expand the teleheath service that many patients in rural communities rely on to speak to a specialist, as well as to new digital home health monitoring systems.

The government’s plan will focus on “team-based care”, which is a key part of its deal with the B.C. Green Party and will link doctors and other healthcare works into regional “primary care” networks to address doctor shortages, to streamline the referral process, and to provide patients with better support

These networks are being rolled out in Burnaby, Comox Valley, Prince George, Richmond and the South Okanagan-Similkameen region, and will arrive at another 15 communities within the next year. The goal is to set up the networks in 70 per cent of B.C. communities by 2021.

Funding will also be provided to hire up to 200 more general practitioners, as well as offer family medicine residents the chance to join. This is in addition to the $115 million announced a day earlier to hire 200 nurse practitioners over three years.

Community health centres are also in the works, which will act as central hubs for residents to seek information and connect with the health care resources nearby.

The government did not provide a budget for this new plan. A request for comment has been made to the health ministry.

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