British Columbia has announced new supports to help hire and train more nurses and midwives in order to take pressure off the strained health-care system.
Premier David Eby said the new measures will support Canadian-trained nurses who want to get back into the workforce, as well as internationally trained nurses looking to practise in B.C.
"There are highly skilled and experienced nurses who want to get to work in our system now but are facing barriers preventing them from delivering services that British Columbians need," Eby said during a news conference at Langara College in Vancouver on Monday.
For Canadian-trained nurses, the government will offer financial support of up to $4,000 to cover applications, assessments and eligible travel costs for current nurses to re-enter the system. There will also be up to $10,000 in bursaries for any additional education they might need to get back to work.
For nurses trained abroad, Eby said the province plans to spend $1.3 million to streamline the licensing process.
He said the goal is to reduce the registration waiting period from the current three years to between four and nine months.
"We know the journey to securing a career health profession can be more challenging for those who are new to our country," said Cynthia Johansen, CEO of the B.C. College of Nurses and Midwives.
"We want to help applicants to gain registration in the right nursing role as quickly as possible ... and without compromising public safety," she added, describing the current three-year wait for international nurses as "unacceptable."
At the time, Eby said government planned to triple the number of seats in the Practice Ready Assessment program by March 2024.
The program allows internationally educated family doctors to become licensed to work in B.C, placing them in rural and urban communities who need more physicians and requiring they work that placement for at least three years.
Emergency operations centres reopen
Last week, Health Minister Adrian Dix said the demand for hospital care in B.C. is rising. More than 10,000 people were in acute care across the province as of Thursday, up six per cent from New Year's Eve.
On Monday, the province reactivated 20 hospital emergency operations centres previously set up for COVID-19 to manage an expected spike in cases of flu, RSV and the novel coronavirus.