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October 27, 2017 4:13 pm

Physiotherapist Shortage in Northern BC

Thursday, August 3, 2017 @ 6:00 AM

The Conference Board of Canada presented its report via webinar at UHNBC’s Learning and Development Centre – photo 250News

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.”


If you have a child or looking for a career change I highly encourage anything medical. There is not a single discipline that is not in high demand and looking for people everywhere !

I saw a map of the physiotherapist association of bc on google. Concentration is in larger centers like the lowermainland, the okanagan cities of Pentiction, Vernon, Kelowna and smaller cities like Prince George. Physios are being churned out but after that, it a matter of where they want to live.

Why would anyone let alone a physiotherapist want to locate in remote area’s. There are of course some exceptions, however in general these people would sooner be located in an urban area. Wouldn’t you.??

    My ideal location would be a large urban centre with big city amenities, that also provides easy access to rural environments for stuff like fishing, hiking, boating, etc.

    There are many places like this in Canada (some of our largest cities even fit this profile) and it might partially explain why so many people seem to be flocking to them at the expense of smaller more remote areas that are more limited in their offerings. People have discovered that they can have their cake and eat it too.

agree with you nmg…
i am a physiotherapist in bc and am from northern bc but the fact of the matter is these small communities do not have the work or the population base to keep a physio working all day 8 hours per day 5 days per week regardless of what anyone says. i know from first hand experience. further to this most new grads want to work where they have professional development opportunity, ability to work and liase with colleagues and a working enviro where they are not the sole therapist. listen if the provincial gov’t or northern health wants to pay me a full wage like they pay their therapists here in pg regardless of number of clients or pts i see in a day then i am all for it. i can handle a full wage and full benefits to work in v-hoof or fsj, etc for half the work u would do in pg i am in but i don’t think the gov’t or health authority will go for this

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