FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – A primary theme of the premier’s meeting last month was the current state of Canada’s healthcare system, which is disintegrating after the COVID-19 pandemic and years of inconsistent funding.

There is a shortage of nurses, doctors, care aides, and other healthcare professionals throughout the province and the rest of the country.

Premiers called on the federal government to carry its weight and provide stable funding to provinces and territories.

The Canadian Press reported in July that the premiers sent the feds a “detailed funding proposal” and are awaiting a response, though Prime Minister contacted B.C. Premier John Horgan to inform him that Ottawa is working on the “funding situation.”

When it comes to Northern B.C., assistant professor at the University of Northern British Columbia’s School of Nursing, Dr. Raelene Marceau, says a step towards addressing the severe healthcare shortage in the Peace region is getting communities involved in healthcare recruitment efforts.

Marceau says when welcoming new healthcare professionals into the community, it’s crucial to offer more than just additional financial compensation.

“There’s a lot of different strategies other than just giving money, and community is one of them. So, getting the community involved in recruitment and showing these individuals that come to the community how great it is to live in the northeast is important,” Marceau explained.

Another piece that would alleviate the crisis, according to Marceau, would be to implement a sustainable workforce for nurse practitioners and registered nurses.

“My research program has been on workforce planning for nurse practitioners and RNs. We know that across Canada, we’re really poor at workforce planning,” Marceau said.

“So it’s understanding what creates a sustainable RN workforce, really looking into the research on that and trying to create that in our regional area.”

As for what the federal government could do, Marceau said that a good step would be to revisit how Canada funds healthcare.

“I think we get stuck in one way or a few ways of doing things that maybe have worked in the past, but now we’re seeing, particularly with COVID, that we have to rethink what we’re doing as far as health policy across Canada.”

“Basically, it’s looking at the sustainability of what we’re doing in healthcare and looking at sustainability in a very different way.”

She says that the way the entire health care system is funded in Canada is based upon the Canada Health Act — legislation that establishes the criteria and conditions provincial and territorial health insurance plans have to meet to receive the total cash contribution for which they are eligible for from the federal government.

“That’s probably the biggest problem in our healthcare system is that the most outdated health policy is the Health Act. We probably have to start at that fundamental, foundational level of changing the Canada Health Act and go from there. That’s a huge change.”

Raelene Marceau works at the Peace River – Liard UNBC campus in Fort St. John. She is the coordinator for UNBC’s Northern Baccalaureate Nursing program, a program that aims to improve access to health care in the region by training nurses locally.

The program’s second intake begins on September 6th, 2022.

To learn more about the program, click here.

With files from The Canadian Press.

Spencer Hall is a news reporter for energeticcity.ca and a recent graduate of the British Columbia Institute of Technology’s Radio Arts & Entertainment program. Growing up in Northwest B.C. made Spencer aware of the importance of local journalism, independent media, and reconciliation. In his spare time, you can find Spencer reading, playing video games, or at the FSJ dog park with his dog, Teddy.