Physiotherapist Shortage in Northern BC
Prince George, B.C. – There’s a shortage of physiotherapists in Canada and no where is that more apparent than in rural and remote areas.
Louis Theriault with the Conference Board of Canada presented a report on the subject (Stretched Too Thin: The Demand For Physiotherapy Services in Canada) and discussed his findings at UHNBC’s Learning and Development Centre via webinar Wednesday.
“From a sustainability perspective, there is not an abundant supply of physiotherapists to satisfy a dramatic rise in demand, especially in rural and remote communities,” the report finds.
“As of 2014, the unemployment rate for all professions in Canada was 6.9 per cent. With the unemployment rate among physiotherapists around 0.3 per cent, there is no surplus to help alleviate the rising demand and exhausted supply in some areas of the country.”
The report also found:
- Nearly all of Canada’s physiotherapists (90 per cent) are employed in an urban area.
- The remaining 10 per cent service 90 per cent of the country’s land mass, and recruiting physiotherapists to these non-urban centres poses a significant challenge.
- The number of Canadians who have consulted a physiotherapist has been increasing across Canada.
- The number of Canadians consulting physiotherapists increased from 8.4 per cent of the adult population in 2001 to 11.6 per cent in 2014 (a 3.8 per cent increase per year). By way of comparison, Canada’s adult population has grown by an annual average of just 1 per cent since 2001.
None of the findings were a surprise to local physiotherapist Hilary Crowley.
“Doesn’t surprise me at all. We know it’s a fact and we really want to change that. And that’s why we’re really trying hard to get a distributed physiotherapy program at UNBC,” she says.
“We have a rural cohort right now where 20 UBC students do the majority of their clinical placements in Prince George and surrounding areas but we want the whole academic program here so they’re embedded in the community and then they’re far more likely to stay her once they graduate rather than be attracted to the big cities like Vancouver.”
She adds while Prince George tends to fluctuate in the number of physiotherapists it has in town she notes it’s the rural areas that are the hardest hit.
“There’s one physiotherapist in Mackenzie who does outreach I think to Mt. Milligan and for years they didn’t have one,” says Crowley.
“There’s no physiotherapist in Tumbler Ridge, Northern Health doesn’t have anybody in McBride or Valemount. Vanderhoof has one and there’s nobody in Fort St. James and nobody in Fraser Lake.”
She’s hoping the report makes a difference.
“I’m hoping it will strengthen our arguments because he’s presenting hard facts,” says Crowley. “We’ve got a strong argument anyway. Everybody agrees – UNBC, UBC, local government. Everybody agrees we need this but the government hasn’t released any funds so now we have a new government so we’re hoping.”