VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwire - Sept. 26, 2012) - A new program starting October 1 will strengthen health care delivery in rural regions of the province, BCMA President Dr. Shelley Ross and Health Minister Dr. Margaret MacDiarmid announced today.
The program will help fund locums for general practitioners who provide core anesthesia services for hospitals in rural and remote communities. It will allow these physicians to apply for up to 10 days of locum coverage per year so they can do such things as participate in continuing medical education programs or take vacation. Locums are physicians who assume another doctor's duties on a temporary basis and are an important part of the physician workforce.
"One of the toughest things about providing medical services in rural and remote areas is the difficulty in getting away for a break," said Dr. Ross. "This new locum service will provide general practitioners the opportunity to take time off while making sure the community is not left without anesthesia services. This is another initiative that will help attract physicians to practice in rural and remote communities."
The Rural General Practitioner Anesthesia Locum Program was developed by the Joint Standing Committee on Rural Issues (JSC), a joint initiative of the provincial government and BCMA. The committee's mandate is to develop programs that strengthen rural health care and encourage physicians to live and practice in rural and remote areas of B.C. With local anesthesia capability, rural communities have the necessary resources to perform caesarean sections, a variety of other surgical procedures, and some testing and diagnostic services.
"As a family doctor who practiced medicine for many years in rural B.C., I recognize the challenges that rural physicians face," said Dr. MacDiarmid. "This locum program will help support doctors who provide core anesthesia services and at the same time, ensure that families in rural and remote communities have access to the medical services they need. I am proud of the fact that B.C. has some of the most comprehensive funding and incentive programs in Canada to encourage doctors to set up practice and stay in rural B.C."
To be eligible for the program, a community must:
- Have a health authority physician supply plan in place requiring this specialty service.
- Have seven or fewer practicing general practitioners with anesthesia training, and
- Be more than 70 kilometres from a major medical centre where either specialists or general practitioners provide similar services.
Communities are categorized based on their level of isolation. Physicians providing locum services in the most rural and remote communities are guaranteed a minimum daily rate of up to $1,000 per day.
In addition to providing primary care through community medical practices, general practice physicians eligible for this program have additional training in anesthesia core services and have privileges to practice their enhanced skills in local hospitals.
In July 2012, B.C. doctors ratified a new four-year agreement that supports ongoing efforts to recruit and retain physicians, while also improving access to specialists and care in rural and remote communities. The Physician Master Agreement provides $18 million over two years to enhance access to specialty medical services, including specialists in rural practice. Additionally, effective April 1, 2013, the agreement provides $10 million to the JSC to help enhance physician services in rural and remote communities in B.C.
Communities currently eligible for the locum program
Eligibility for the Rural General Practitioner Anesthesia Locum Program is based, in part, on the number of general practitioners with anesthesia training in a rural or remote community and community eligibility may change if these numbers fluctuate.
The following communities are currently eligible for the Rural General Practitioner Anesthesia Locum Program:
- Campbell River
- Port Alberni
- Powell River
- Salt Spring
- Prince Rupert
- 100 Mile House
- Salmon Arm
- Williams Lake
- Dawson Creek
- Fort St. John
- Prince George