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Province supports allied health workforce, improves patient care

December 6, 2023 at 1:34 pm  BC, News, Politics, Provincial

The Province continues to put people first by launching the new Allied Health Strategic Plan (AHSP), which focuses on recruitment, retention, training and redesigning of the allied health workforce, to ensure people have access to the health-care providers they need.

“Nearly everyone has received care from an allied health professional at some point in their life,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “Whether it is getting a blood sample collected by a medical laboratory assistant, seeing a physiotherapist for rehabilitation after surgery or talking about mental-health resources and community supports with a social worker, allied health professionals are a vital part of team-based health care that people in B.C. rely on. By taking action to support our allied health professionals and grow this workforce, we are ensuring that people in B.C. have access to the health-care provider they need when they need it.” 

The AHSP is a multi-year road map that is part of and funded through B.C.’s Health Human Resources (HHR) Strategy, which was announced on Sept. 29, 2022. The strategy outlines 70 actions that focus on four cornerstones: retain, redesign, recruit and train. The AHSP highlights 42 actions in the HHR Strategy and introduces 15 new initiatives, for a total of 57 actions, that will directly affect and benefit the allied health workforce across the province. Investing in the allied health workforce means investing in the health and well-being of all people in British Columbia.

Actions in the AHSP will be implemented over the next three to five years. Some immediate actions include:

  • $15 million over three years to fund training bursaries for priority programs, with the goal of attracting more students to priority nursing, allied-health education programs and public health sector, as well as strengthening Indigenous-student recruitment (HHR Strategy action 57); and
  • building clinical-practice leadership and clinical-educator capacity around the province through an investment of more than $30 million over three years to establish new senior allied-health leadership roles throughout B.C.’s health authorities and Providence Health Care, which will support more effective clinical-practice oversight and education of allied health professionals to ensure high quality, appropriate, timely and safe patient care (HHR Strategy action 15).

Work to strengthen the allied health workforce has been ongoing and includes:

  • Bursaries for internationally educated allied health professionals that will help cover costs associated with credential assessments, English language testing, supplemental education, and more (HHR Strategy action 37). There was $4.5 million initially announced in July 2022 and supported the launch of the Internationally Educated Physiotherapists bursary program in June 2023. Additional program expansions will support internationally educated medical laboratory technologists, occupational therapists and other high-demand allied health professions. 
  • Announced in July 2022, expanded health-education opportunities for students looking to join the allied health workforce, with as much as 322 new allied health seats in multiple programs at post-secondary institutions around B.C. (HHR Strategy action 69). As of September 2023, 238 of the 322 seat expansions have been implemented, with remaining seat expansions on track to be fully implemented by September 2026.

In July 2023, B.C. appointed a new Provincial Chief Allied Health Officer, the first position of its kind in Canada, based on best-practice evidence from several international jurisdictions. The Provincial Chief Allied Health Officer will provide stewardship and provincial oversight of the AHSP. Establishing this leadership role highlights ongoing commitment from the Province to lead the way in recognizing and supporting allied health professionals to ensure a co-ordinated, integrated system of care focused on improved patient-centred health outcomes for people in B.C.

British Columbia’s allied health workforce is the second largest health workforce in the province. It includes more than 70 disciplines and approximately 70,000 to 75,000 individuals, who provide a range of preventative, diagnostic, technical and therapeutic health care, as well as clinical support services across the lifespan and continuum of care.

The actions outlined within the AHSP were developed through provincial consultations with more than 6,000 members of B.C.’s allied health workforce, as well as key health- and education-sector partners from public and private sectors. The Allied Health Strategic Plan, combined with B.C.’s Health Human Resource Strategy, will strengthen and support health human resources within the province and help build a public health-care system people can count on now and for generations to come.   

Quotes:

Selina Robinson, Minister of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills –

“Access to post-secondary education and training is essential to get more people working in B.C.’s health-care system. The New Allied Health Strategic Plan is creating more opportunities for people to train for new, good-paying jobs in an expanding career field and helping people in B.C. get the care they need.”

Gemma de Jesus, medical laboratory assistant at Vancouver General Hospital –

“I’ve been a medical lab assistant for more than 20 years, helping patients get to their diagnosis. Lab assistants are an important part of the health-care team and I hope that more British Columbians consider a rewarding career in medical lab sciences.”

Kane Tse, president, Health Sciences Association –

“Allied health workers, like the doctors and nurses they work alongside every day, are burning out. As the union representing more than 20,000 of the specialized health professionals who provide diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation, we are encouraged by this government’s recognition that health care is provided by a diverse team. The Allied Health Strategic Plan, as part of B.C.’s wider Health Human Resources Strategy, is essential to attracting the people needed to keep our health-care system running. We look forward to working with the minister to provide more support for those entering the health sciences or continuing to serve, especially in rural communities.”

Meena Brisard, secretary-business manager, Hospital Employees’ Union –

“We welcome and applaud this government’s work over the past few years to improve access to health care, while tackling worker shortages and other factors contributing to worker burnout and injuries. New measures to recruit and retain workers in health care’s front lines, like those announced today, should help further improve working and caring conditions in B.C.’s health-care system.”

Learn More:

To read the full Allied Health Strategic Plan, visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/files/Allied_Health_Strategic_Plan.pdf  

To learn about B.C.’s Health Human Resources Strategy, visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2022HLTH0059-001464

To read about allied health training seat expansion, visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2022HLTH0047-001138

For more information about the bursary programs, contact: [email protected]

Five backgrounders follow.

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