WILLIAMS LAKE – To date, families in 36 rural communities across British Columbia will benefit from increased funding to strengthen public access to emergency services. A total of 52 communities are eligible.
The Province announced $10 million in July 2011 to provide financial assistance of up to $200,000 a year for rural, fee-for-service physicians who commit to ensure reliable public access to emergency services is maintained at their local hospital.
Ashcroft hospital is not among the 36 benefiting hospitals named by the government, which include nearby Lillooet, 100 Mile House, Clearwater and Williams Lake. In a letter to Ashcroft Council from Health Minister Michael de Jong, dated Dec. 14, the Minister advised that “Physicians and health authorities are required to collaboratively develop a plan in order for funding to be provided.”
The applications received to date have been reviewed by a joint Ministry of Health and BC Medical Association committee, and the money is now being distributed.
Examples of how the funding might be used include hiring additional physicians, incentives for working weekends, holidays or night shifts and health authority-approved equipment purchases. Physicians will work with their regional health authority to develop community-specific plans.
“Interior Health serves a large geographic area covering almost 215,000 square kilometres and includes a multitude of rural and remote communities,” said Norman Embree, board chair, Interior Health. “This announcement reflects our commitment to working in partnership with physicians and the Province to provide reliable, sustainable emergency health care services in those rural sites.”
The assistance is part of a series of targeted investments, totalling $180 million, to enhance patient care as outlined in the 2009 Memorandum of Agreement between the Province and the BCMA. Approximately half of this assistance is directed toward improving patient access to services, while the remainder is for targeted labour market adjustments to improve recruitment and retention. This funding is within the existing fiscal plan.
“Families in Williams Lake and 100 Mile House will benefit by having more reliable access to emergency services,” said Donna Barnett, MLA, Cariboo-Chilcotin and Parliamentary Secretary for Rural Communities to the Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development. “Cariboo Memorial Hospital & Health Centre and 100 Mile District General Hospital will also be able to provide even better care and enhanced patient safety thanks to the funding being provided by the Province.”
The program was created by the Joint Standing Committee on Rural Issues, which includes the Province and the BC Medical Association (BCMA), set up to enhance rural health care delivery across B.C. Local physicians were encouraged to work together as a team and apply for funding.
“So far, 36 of the eligible rural communities have been approved for funding to help maintain reliable access to local emergency services,” said Minister of Children and Family Development, Mary McNeil, on behalf of Minister of Health, Michael de Jong. “I know there’s been some difficulty in recruiting and retaining physicians in rural areas, and the extra financial assistance provided by the Province will ease some of those concerns by helping doctors fully cover their local hospital.”