Keeping doctors in rural communities is a universal issue. In BC, one solution is the BC Practice Readiness Program (PRA-BC). Twice a year, internationally trained doctors come to rural BC communities where there is a shortage of doctors. Nineteen physicians have completed the latest session of the program and are in the process of setting up practice in BC.
Dr. Aimen Salem who came from Libya to settle in Campbell River says “the PRA-BC program gave us an extraordinary opportunity to prove our competency as physicians and to gain a valuable insight into the Canadian health system, which helped ease our transition to practice in BC.”
The PRA-BC requires these skilled doctors to complete a rigorous test and then work with local doctors in Health Authority-assigned communities for three months. Once their training is completed, the physicians commit to remaining in their assigned communities for three years.
The PRA-BC is the result of work by the Joint Standing Committee on Rural Issues (JSC), one of four joint collaborative committees that represent a partnership of Doctors of BC and the BC Government. The JSC has committed funding of $7.6 million until 2019.
Dr. Gangadevi Lokuwattage comes from Sri Lanka and enthusiastically declares “the PRA-BC program changed my life. It helped me to better adapt and provided me with supports and guidance from experienced Canadian physicians and mentors.” Dr. Lokuwattage has set-up practice in Clearwater.
She also has good things to say about Clearwater itself “I’m enjoying it. People are really nice and helpful. They guide me – how to drive in winter, how to dress in winter, where to get things I need. I’m experiencing things I have seen in movies now in my real life, which is amazing.”
Communities receiving new doctors are: in Northern Health - Burns Lake, Dawson Creek, Fort St. John and Vanderhoof; in Vancouver Island – Campbell River, Courtenay and Duncan; and in Interior Health – Castlegar, Clearwater, Williams Lake and Kamloops. Over 71 physicians are working in rural communities as a result of the PRA-BC program since the program started in 2015.
For more information on the Practice Readiness Assessment program http://www.prabc.ca/
For more information on JSC’s programs to recruit and retain doctors to BC’s rural communities http://rccbc.ca/rccbc/about-the-jsc/