Doctor shortage puts pressure on NDP to deliver on promise of second BC medical school

Expert says more immediate solutions are more important than a new school.

Critical shortages across all branches of the health care sector have critics wondering when the promised new medical school at Simon Fraser University will open.

But an ER doctor has called for more immediate action, saying those without a family doctor cannot afford to wait the years it will take to train a new generation of doctors.

The BC Liberals are calling on the NDP government to keep its “broken promise” to create a second medical school in British Columbia, at Simon Fraser University, and to increase the number of seats in the University of British Columbia medical school from 288 to 400.

“It was a government that promised a second medical school at SFU Surrey and there is no indication that it intends to follow through,” said Shirley Bond, the Liberal Health Critic. of British Columbia.

Premier John Horgan promised during the 2020 election campaign that if re-elected, the NDP would fund a new medical school at SFU. The two budgets since the election have not included funding for construction.

The opposition also wants the province to make it easier for foreign-trained doctors to practice and increase the number of residencies available for international medical graduates from 56 a year to 150.

In April, the province announced a plan to speed up the certification of internationally educated nurses to address staffing shortages, but no such plan was announced for doctors who studied at the foreign.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said on Tuesday he had been pushing for a new medical school since 2011 when he was leader of the opposition, an idea that was not supported by the ruling Liberals in Colombia. British.

SFU is developing a business case for the new medical school, Dix said, so there is no specific date as to when it will open.

“It’s something that’s important and significant over time, but not really related to the current crisis,” Dix said, noting that it takes years to build a medical school and produce medical graduates.

“We see challenges — especially in family medicine, but in all of medicine — now. We’re going to see more challenges in 10 years,” Dix said, given that the population over 75 is expected to double over the next decade.

Staffing shortages led the emergency department at UBC Hospital in Vancouver to cut hours. Starting Tuesday, the emergency department will admit patients from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. instead of 10 p.m., Vancouver Coastal Health announced Monday.

The health authority said this will allow coverage for emergency physicians at all acute care sites in Vancouver while ensuring that staff and physicians are not constantly working overtime, which causes burnout.

People who need emergency care after 8 p.m. can go to Vancouver General Hospital, St. Paul’s Hospital or, for children and youth, BC Children’s Hospital.

“The increase in patient arrivals, particularly at the end of the day, means that staff and medical staff at UBC Hospital are regularly working well beyond their scheduled shifts into the wee hours of the morning. morning to provide care to those arriving at the hospital. late evening,” Dr. Ladan Sadrehashemi, VCH Senior Medical Director for Vancouver Acute Care, said in a statement.

“The uncertainty of not knowing the end time of the last shift creates burnout and the loss of medical and other personnel…and is not sustainable.”

Dr. Michael Curry, an emergency physician at Delta Hospital and assistant clinical professor at the University of British Columbia, said it is unfortunate that UBC Hospital is reducing its hours, as any reduction in capacity of emergency rooms puts patients at risk.

“I can think of a personal case where someone suffered a life-threatening injury within 100 yards of UBC Hospital,” he said. “They very well could have died if they had to be taken to Vancouver General Hospital.”

The primary care crisis – with one million British Columbians without a family doctor – is putting pressure on understaffed emergency rooms that are seeing increasing numbers of patients who have not received adequate preventive care, Curry said.

For example, he said, ER doctors more often see patients with delayed diagnoses, people coming in for prescription refills, or patients who have chronic conditions that have persisted for years.

“The only entry into the healthcare system for a growing number of British Columbians is through the emergency department,” he said, adding to patient frustration and staff burnout.

Vancouver Coastal Health is investigating a July incident in which a woman died after spending two days on a stretcher in an overcrowded and understaffed waiting room at a North Vancouver hospital.

While he backs more training seats to educate the next generation of doctors, Curry said even if SFU’s new medical school opens tomorrow, it will take six to 12 years before those doctors are practicing.

It shows a “lack of foresight” in consolidating a “health care system that has been running on steam for years”, he said.

Staffing shortages have resulted in the temporary closure of some small town emergency rooms, including those in Port McNeill and Port Hardy. This creates a backlog for paramedics who need to transport a patient to the nearest hospital with an open emergency room.

With about a quarter of the 2,400 paramedic jobs vacant, there are not enough paramedics to staff emergency ambulances in smaller communities.

This was the case Sunday in Ashcroft when an octogenarian had a cardiac arrest. The man was within 200 meters of the ambulance station but had to wait 28 minutes for paramedics to arrive.

“When you call 911 in British Columbia, you should expect an ambulance to respond,” Bond said. “While this is absolutely devastating for Ashcroft, we are hearing similar stories of a health care system in crisis across our province.”

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