Faster pathway helps increase trained health care assistants in British Columbia

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Victoria: More supports are on the way for seniors, as the Province helps make it easier and faster for qualified health care assistants trained in Canada to work in British Columbia.

“We’re bringing in changes that will make it easier for qualified health care assistants trained in other Canadian provinces to find work in B.C., without compromising our safety standards,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “This faster pathway will help bring relief to the many communities that need health care assistants, especially those in the Peace River region and East Kootenays.”

In fall 2016, an assessment process for health care assistants wishing to work in B.C. was introduced. The process was established to ensure that B.C. maintains its safety standards for seniors. However, it became a contributing barrier for health care assistants trained in Canada who wanted to work in the province.

To address this barrier and the growing need for health care assistants in B.C., health care assistants – or equivalents – living in other provinces will no longer need to live in B.C. before applying to the BC Care Aide and Community Health Worker Registry. The registry is a list of credentialed health care assistants who are working for or wish to work for publicly funded employers in B.C.

Additionally, eligible applicants will not be required to take the Nursing Community Assessment Service (NCAS). This will make it easier and more affordable for health care assistants to be registered to work in the province.

Once out-of-province, Canadian-trained health care assistants qualify for the new faster pathway, they will be immediately enrolled in a standardized orientation program. This new pathway, which is expected to take effect on Jan. 15, 2020, will continue to ensure that health care assistants from Canadian provinces and territories meet B.C.’s high standards of providing care.

This is one part of a larger human resource strategy to increase staffing levels in long-term care homes and community care sectors. The Ministry of Health has earmarked approximately $2.26 million in funding over the next three years to Health Match BC to develop and implement a provincial recruitment strategy for health care assistants, including a bursary program. Of the $2.26 million, approximately $1 million will be allocated to bursaries and approximately $700,000 will be allocated to a recruitment campaign. The remaining $555,000 will be allocated to cover administrative costs, including a health care assistant careers consultant.

The bursary program will help eligible health care assistants who do not qualify for the faster pathway with the costs associated with registering in B.C., including the NCAS assessment and any remedial education. These health care assistants may be those that have been trained internationally or within B.C. The recruitment strategy includes a marketing campaign and website, with approximately $300,000 allocated in 2019-20. Health Match BC worked with staff in the Ministry of Health and other stakeholders to form a consultation group to help develop the three-year recruitment strategy.

“I am very thankful to all the wonderful people who have chosen health care assistance as a career so that they can endeavour to make a difference for the people they care for,” said Anne Kang, Parliamentary Secretary for Seniors and Multiculturalism. “By improving the registration pathway and making education more affordable for health care assistants, B.C. is taking an important step to ensure the caregivers are available for the people who need them.”

Increasing the number of qualified health care assistants in B.C. is part of government’s commitment to strengthen the supports available to seniors. Government is investing approximately $1 billion over three years to improve care for seniors, including investments in primary care, home health, long-term care and assisted living. This also includes $240 million over three years to increase staffing levels in long-term care homes, with the goal of achieving 3.36 direct care hours per resident day, on average, across all health authorities by the end of 2020-21.

Quick Facts:

• In 2019, 19% of B.C.’s population is 65 or over. In 15 years, this is expected to rise to 25%.

• There are currently an estimated 24,600 health care assistants employed by health authorities and affiliated employers in B.C.

• Health care assistants provide personal support services for seniors, people with a disability and people with acute or chronic illnesses. They work in a variety of settings, including home support, assisted living and long-term care homes.

• Health care assistants are also known as care aides, community health workers, personal support workers and other titles.

• NCAS operates as a program of the BC College of Nursing Professionals. Overall, the NCAS assessment provides the nursing regulator and the registry with a picture of the applicants’ skills and abilities to practice safely, ethically and competently in B.C.

• As part of the human resource strategy to increase staffing levels in long-term care homes and community care sectors the Province, through the ministries of Health and Advanced Education, Skills and Training made the following investments:
• In October 2019, approximately $3.64 million over the next two years to create 418 more health care assistant seats in 14 post-secondary institutions in B.C.

• In April 2018, approximately $3.3 million to create 384 new health care assistant seats in 11 post-secondary institutions in B.C.