B.C. is making the long-awaited move to reduce barriers to internationally-trained doctors looking to practise in the province.
Premier David Eby announced the changes Sunday (Nov. 27), including tripling the number of spots in B.C.’s licensing program, introducing a new associate physician program, allowing foreign medical graduates to start their accreditation process from their home country, and creating an expedited track for American physicians.
The most quantifiable change will be the increase from 32 to 96 annual seats in the practise Ready Assessment program by March 2024. The program is the only path for internationally-trained doctors to take to be licensed in B.C. While graduates of it have typically been sent to rural and remote areas, the expansion promises to send more to urban and suburban communities.
For those with medical training but not all the credentials required to enter the practise Ready Assessment program, B.C. is introducing an associate physicians program, where people can work under the supervision of licensed doctors in acute-care settings. A similar option already exists in B.C., but can only be accessed through highly-competitive college programs.
Over the coming months, the province said it hopes to further expand the new associate physicians program to community care settings as well. It said there are about 300 British Columbians who could currently qualify for it.
Eby said they’re also working with Canada’s colleges of doctors and physicians to begin allowing internationally-trained physicians to start their accreditation process from their current country, instead of having to make expensive moves before knowing if they’ll be allowed to practise.
Most immediately, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C. is changing its bylaws to allow doctors who have trained in the U.S. for three years to practise medicine in community care settings, such as urgent care centres and family practises. The province said these changes should be in place by January.
Doctors of B.C. estimates about one million British Columbians are without a family doctor.