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B.C. expanding role of pharmacists and first responders to support ailing health-care system

Click to play video: 'B.C. announces changes to help ailing health care system'
B.C. announces changes to help ailing health care system
The provincial government is making a number of changes to help ease the pressure on our health care system. The changes include expanding the scope of work for pharmacists and first responders, and adding more seats to the UBC Medical School program. Richard Zussman has more – Sep 29, 2022

Pharmacists across the province will administer and renew a wider range of medicine increasing access to services for patients, health officials announced Thursday.

It is just part of the province’s overarching human resource plan to address pressure across the health-care system.

Starting on Oct. 14 pharmacists will be given greater power with plans to expand pharmacists’ ability to issue prescriptions for less acute ailments like allergies, indigestion, urinary tract infections and acne, as well as contraception beginning in the spring of 2023.

 

Click to play video: '‘This allows us to deliver a better standard of care’: Adrian Dix on health-care changes'
‘This allows us to deliver a better standard of care’: Adrian Dix on health-care changes

Previously, for example, a person with a urinary tract infection would need to be assessed and treated by a primary care provider through a family doctor’s office, walk-in clinic or hospital emergency room.

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The province is also increasing what first responders can do, including enhancing airway management skills and providing expanded life support and pain management procedures for paramedics.

Other first responders will be adding additional diagnostic testing, such as blood pressure and blood glucose and administering epinephrine when needed for a life-threatening allergic reaction.

These changes were part of the province’s human resources plan to help support a medical system struggling to provide services everyone in B.C. needs.

B.C.’s Health Minister Adrian Dix at the press conference on Thursday. Nic Amaya / Global News

Read more: ‘We fear for the tsunami of cancer cases’: Radiologists pen urgent letter to Adrian Dix

The province will also be expanding the UBC Medical School with 128 annual new undergraduate (40) and postgraduate (88) seats.

To address the critical need for family physicians, additional family medicine residency seats will be part of the postgraduate expansion with 40 new undergraduate seats and 40 family medicine residency positions phased in over two years beginning fall 2023.

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An additional 48 residency positions to accommodate the expanded undergraduate program will be phased in by fall 2028.

“The COVID-19 pandemic and the toxic drug supply, along with a growing and aging population, have led to the health sector workforce experiencing challenges – from stress and burnout, to high staff turnover and retirements” reads a report from the province.

“The World Health Organization forecasts a global shortage of 15 million health care workers by 2030.

By 2032 demand for health services in B.C. will grow by 14 per cent.”

The overall provincial strategy lays out 70 total actions focused on retention, redesign, recruitment and training.

Retaining will include a commitment to wellness, inclusion and better support in high-need areas.

Recruitment includes decreasing barriers to entry for internationally trained health-care workers.

Training and redesign include improving efficiency and getting new workers into the system.

Click to play video: 'B.C. radiologists concerned about testing backlog'
B.C. radiologists concerned about testing backlog

Health care in B.C. has come under fire recently with professionals saying they are working with less staff, more demand and a lack of support.

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This week, radiologists in B.C. sounded the alarm about how long patients are waiting for medical imaging in the province.

“We fear for the tsunami of cancer cases (including those initially detected at stage II and above) that may be coming in B.C. because of delayed access to medical imaging,” radiologists penned in a letter to Dix.

The medical professionals said hundreds of thousands of patients are waiting for medical imaging and they are asking for “urgent action” to address this issue.

This document comes after a group of 26 doctors sent Dix a letter last week asking for a meeting to “express deep concern for the estimated one million patients waiting to see a specialist” in the province.

Read more: B.C. medical specialists call for urgent meeting with health minister as patients are stuck waiting

“Our entire health-care system is crumbling, but not enough is being done to improve specialist patient outcomes or shorten our overcrowded wait lists,” the letter reads.

Click to play video: 'B.C. specialists sound alarm about ‘crumbling’ health care system'
B.C. specialists sound alarm about ‘crumbling’ health care system

Meanwhile, British Columbians have been speaking out about ambulance delays.

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A B.C. man said his brother was left waiting seven hours overnight with a broken hip for an ambulance.

Bill, who asked not to use his last name because his brother wishes to remain anonymous, said the incident happened in Langley in early September.

New Westminster, B.C., man also wants answers after his sister suffered a stroke, waited more than an hour for an ambulance, and is now partially paralyzed.

Troy Clifford, president of Ambulance Paramedics of BC, has previously raised alarm bells on a “provincewide staffing crisis” in the sector that has left many communities without sufficient ambulance coverage for long periods of time.

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