More than a year after its inception, the province’s Practice Ready Assessment BC (PRA-BC) program continues to benefit residents in Interior Health (IH) by linking rural and remote communities in need with family physicians. Interior Health is pleased to welcome five new family physicians in August and September, one in each of the following communities: Enderby, Keremeos, Logan Lake, Nakusp, and Trail.
This is the third cohort of physicians who have committed to working in designated rural IH facilities, bringing the total to 13 since the program began in 2015. All of these physicians have successfully completed the rigorous Practice Ready Assessment process. PRA-BC matches internationally-trained physicians with a B.C. physician who evaluates the candidate’s skills when delivering care to patients over a three-month period. Following this process, physicians are placed in communities in need.
These physicians are welcome members of their new communities, and their arrival represents stability of care, as all of them have committed to practising for a minimum of three years in their chosen locations.
The PRA-BC candidate in Keremeos will work through the South Similkameen Health Centre and complete the community’s complement of four physicians. This community, like many others in IH, has been faced with the challenge of delivering quality care in a consistent manner due to the retirement of longtime physicians. Nakusp will also have a full complement of four physicians with the arrival of their PRA candidate who will be based at Arrow Lakes Hospital, providing care in both acute and residential settings. The Logan Lake Health Centre will now be home to a second PRA candidate, building on the success of the first physician from the same program who arrived in March. The Enderby Community Health Centre will welcome its first PRA-BC candidate who will work alongside a full-time Nurse Practitioner; and the fifth physician of this cohort will be taking over a private practice while also supporting the emergency department at Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital in Trail, working alongside colleagues to provide excellent care to the area’s residents.
The PRA-BC program is a collaborative service launched by the Ministry of Health and Doctors of BC, who recognized the need to strengthen health care in rural and remote areas and improve access to family physicians. The program began as a pilot project in April 2015 and since then has been funded for a total of $7.6 million.
The province is working with health-care providers, health authorities and community agencies on a comprehensive strategy to improve access to integrated primary health-care services across the province. The Practice Ready Assessment program is one component of this strategy.
The strategy also depends on the work of more than 30 Divisions of Family Practice to implement innovative changes that meet the needs of their specific communities, such as recruiting new doctors and preparing for retirements, introducing team-based practices, helping general practitioners increase their capacity to accept new patients, using telehealth, and creating stronger links between family doctors and community support services.