Budget 2021 is a chance to modernize B.C.’s health care workforce ahead of a second wave of COVID-19

Canadian Association of Physician Assistants calls on Horgan government to introduce, hire, and train physician assistants as part of the provincial response to the pandemic

VICTORIA, June 10, 2020—Today, the Canadian Association of Physician Assistants urged the British Columbia government to catch up with the rest of the globe and take the long overdue step of adding physician assistants (PAs) to the province’s health care workforce.

Eric Demers, a resident of Victoria and the Association’s immediate Past-President, made the recommendation in remarks he delivered at today’s Budget 2021 Consultations, held by the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services.

“The immense role that PAs can play in boosting health system capacity is among the big global lessons from the first wave of COVID-19, but here at home I’m on the sidelines,” said Demers. “Right now I can only travel to northern Canada to deliver care at remote worksites because I can’t practice locally when I’m home. It doesn’t make sense.”

PAs are advanced practice clinicians trained in the medical model to work under the supervision of a licensed doctor and provide primary, acute, and specialty care in all types of settings. Today British Columbia lags behind other Canadian provinces, and countries like the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and the United States, in terms of using the PA model to streamline services, decrease costs, and improve the efficiency of the physician workforce.

As far back as 2013, Doctors of BC has supported the introduction of PAs through its policy statement. The Conference Board of Canada conducted an in-depth study and found that increasing the use of PAs could save the Canadian health system more than $600 million.

Unlike other new roles in health care, PAs represent a new workforce that can fill existing vacancies, instead of simply shifting gaps from one profession to another. And with a generalist training and a broad scope of practice, the government can quickly deploy PAs to fill needs across the health system.

CAPA’s pre-budget recommendations ask the government to:

  1. Regulate PAs under the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia.
  2. Provide health authorities with funding earmarked to hire 50 PAs over the next three years, at a cost of approximately $6.5 million.
  3. Work with physicians, health system leaders, First Nations, and other stakeholders to identify the specialties where PAs can have the greatest impact.
  4. Explore developing a PA Education Program at UBC to begin training homegrown PAs.

“I hear from so many PAs who would move here in a heartbeat to serve patients,” said Demers. “The government is looking for long-lasting solutions to help steer us through this crisis and we are ready to help.”

Quick Facts

  • More than 700 PAs practice across Canada in Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba, and New Brunswick.
  • Family medicine, emergency medicine, surgical specialties, and general medicine are among the many clinical settings where Canadian PAs are well-established.
  • The Conference Board of Canada recommends that governments capitalize on the potential of the PA profession by implementing strategic policy and funding changes to the way that health human resources and health services are delivered.

About the Canadian Association of Physician Assistants

The Canadian Association of Physician Assistants is the national voice of physician assistants in Canada. We support quality standards and competencies and help establish the profession within the national health care framework. Learn more: capa-acam.ca.