B.C. announces funding injection for postsecondary health-care education

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      The B.C. government has announced a funding injection to support postsecondary health-related training and education.

      In a July 23 news release, Melanie Mark, minister of Advanced Education, Skills, and Training, said that a $4.4-million dollar "focused investment" would be added to the $125 million in annual funding already directed toward provincial health-education programs that produce anesthesia assistants, health-care assistants, additional nursing programs, and mental-health and community-support workers.

      "For years, British Columbians have been calling for more trained health professionals in their communities," Mark said. "We heard that call to action and we're investing in valuable, in-demand training in every corner of the province so that students preparing for careers in health care, or health professionals upgrading their skills, are able to provide quality health care when and where it is needed. It is because of the work of these unsung heroes in health care that we are at a place to safely build back the best B.C."

      The new investments, characterized as "one time" in the release, will "allow government to respond to local and emerging needs and are in addition to ongoing support of health-care education programs at post-secondary institutions throughout B.C.".

      Health Minister Adrian Dix said in the release that the money will help the province in its mission of "training, recruiting and hiring a new generation of health-care professionals at all levels, including respiratory therapists and critical care nurses, who are vital members of the health-care team. Respiratory therapists and nurses working with patients during the COVID-19 pandemic have a high-risk role because of their hands-on work treating patients with breathing difficulties and I thank them for all they do."

      A Vancouver Community College (VCC) "bridging program" that aids licensed practical nurses in completing a bachelor of science in nursing degree received $750,000, and $227,000 went to the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) for critical-care registered nurses to gain advanced skills.

      VCC president and CEO Ajay Patel invoked the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic in responding to the funding announcement: "Thank you to both the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training and the Ministry of Health for investing in VCC and in our students. This funding will make us stronger as we continue to provide the highest quality health-care graduates, especially important during this challenging time with COVID-19. I am most proud of how the delivery of our health programs give students the credits they need to seamlessly ladder from one program to another, providing them with more educational and career opportunities."

      And BCIT president Kathy Kinloch also addressed the pandemic in response while praising the school's contribution to helping the health-care system navigate the public-health crisis.

      "BCIT has long been recognized for its critical role in educating many of B.C.'s front-line healthcare professionals. Their work has been particularly critical in helping our health-care system successfully navigate the challenges of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. We are grateful for this additional funding to help registered nurses advance their skills to support and strengthen this ongoing effort."

      Other schools that received program funding were Thompson Rivers University, Camosun College, Okanagan College, Coast Mountain College, Nicola Valley Institute of Technology, College of New Caledonia; and North Island College.

      UBC, UVic, and UNBC will also receive support to expand nurse-practioner programs.

      When added to the $46 million in new health-care funding introduced since 2017, the government release said, the investments "will result in thousands of new health-care professionals and workers throughout the province".