The Province of British Columbia, Canada, has allocated C$7.5m ($5.4m) in permanent funding to improve emergency care services in Merritt, Oliver, Salmon Arm and neighbouring areas.

Interior Health is working with local physicians on three service contracts for emergency services at hospitals in these regions.

The new contracts will compensate physicians for their time spent on complex cases, increasing on-site physician availability while supporting emergency room operations.

The financing was approved this month and is intended to stabilise physician presence in hospital emergency rooms, moving away from the traditional fee-for-service payment model.

British Columbia Minister of Health Adrian Dix said: “British Columbia, like all jurisdictions in Canada, is facing recruitment and retention challenges that were exacerbated by the recent Covid-19 pandemic, the ongoing toxic-drug crisis and the rising number of patients with complex healthcare needs, and we know that these challenges are more prominent in rural and remote communities.

“That is why we are taking immediate actions to bolster the recruitment of more physicians for our patients and their care teams.

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“This investment will help ensure patients have stable access to emergency care, while we know there is more to do.”

Boundary-Similkameen Legislative Assembly Member Roly Russell said: “These significant investments will help stabilise emergency-department services due to staffing shortages in Oliver, Merritt and Salmon Arm.

“Our acute-care centres are essential for ensuring residents get the care they need, when they need it, and close to home.

“This new service contract with physicians, along with the multitude of other current actions, will support our healthcare professionals and build a stronger foundation for a more reliable and stronger rural healthcare system.”

Last month, the Province of British Columbia approved a Phase II redevelopment plan for Burnaby Hospital, including a 12-storey inpatient tower and integrated cancer centre.