A much-anticipated new medical school at Simon Fraser University has been delayed until 2026.
The BC NDP promised the new medical school during the 2020 election, with the plan to supplement doctors already being trained at the UBC medical school.
Premier David Eby announced on Monday the province is providing up to $4.9 million in start-up funding for the new school and Dr. Roger Strasser has been retained by SFU as the interim dean.
“While we have made enormous progress to strengthen public healthcare over the last five years, we know that many British Columbians are struggling to find a family doctor and waiting too long for care on a waiting list or in an emergency room,” Eby said. “This investment in the first entirely-new medical school in Western Canada in 55 years will mean more family doctors graduating each year to provide care for people.”
The timeline on the new hospital has been altered various times since it was announced during the October 2020 election campaign.
Originally a government press release quoted Health Minister Adrian Dix saying “the first graduating class could be 2023-24.” That has since been changed online to state “the first class would begin in 2023-24.”
The announcement on Monday provides further clarity on the timeline and will mean doctors will not be in the work force until closer to 2030.
There are currently nearly one million British Columbians without a family doctor.
SFU’s medical school will take a focused approach to primary care, based on a strong partnerships with the First Nations Health Authority, the Fraser Health Authority, other provincial health authorities and the practice community.
The province has been attempting to plug holes in a health care system clearly taking on water.
This announcement builds on announcements of 602 new nursing seats and 322 allied health professional seats added to public post-secondary institutions throughout the province and the recruitment of 9,000 people through the health career access program.
The province also recently announced a seat expansion at the UBC Faculty of Medicine to train more doctors in B.C. This includes 40 new undergraduate medical education seats and up to 88 new residency seats at the University of British Columbia’s faculty of medicine, which will be phased in throughout the province beginning in 2023.
“The new SFU medical school will create more opportunities for future doctors to learn, train and stay on to practice in communities throughout B.C. In turn, British Columbians will have increased access to highly skilled, dedicated doctors close to home,” Dix said.