Monday, 18 June 2018

CAOT-BC submits a response to “More physiotherapists need to be trained to meet growing demand”

June 14, 2018

Response to: More physiotherapists need to be trained to meet growing demand (June 13, 2018)

The Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists BC chapter (CAOT-BC) would like to echo and further build on Ms. Bradstock’s comments on the shortage of vital allied health professionals including occupational therapists.

CAOT-BC has been calling for increased training of occupational therapists in BC to address a workforce shortage since 2012. With only 48 seats at the sole program in BC, the UBC occupational therapy program at the Vancouver campus is the smallest English-speaking program in Canada.

Since 2012, the situation has become even more dire. With a 57% increase in new occupational therapy registrants over the past 5 years, we are not even close to keeping up with demand, let alone ready to fill the many positions that will be needed in the expanding health services including management of joint replacement surgery wait lists, enabling seniors to stay home longer, improved mental health care, expanding the Foundry model, building primary care teams, supporting recovery of injured workers through WorksafeBC and helping ICBC deliver a new care-focused model.

Currently, the BC occupational therapy workforce is heavily reliant on in-migration from other provinces and outside of Canada, and a staggering 70% of our workforce is not trained in BC. If something were to happen to this in-migration pipeline of therapists, where would our workforce come from? The results could be catastrophic to healthcare areas where occupational therapists are key team members. Another factor to consider is the maldistribution of the occupational therapy workforce when matched with the population with the biggest gaps in Fraser Health and Northern Health. Coupled with the reliance on in-migration, the occupational therapy workforce is extremely fragile and not ready to meet the growing demand for services.

The solution is to increase training in BC immediately. CAOT-BC is calling for a doubling in the number of occupational therapists trained in the province from 48 to 96. By doubling the graduating class, not only will this reduce the reliance on in-migration by approximately 50%, but also allow British Columbians who want to become occupational therapists the opportunity to do so. Currently, 14% of program applicants are successful with many others forced to leave the province to seek training elsewhere in Canada or outside of the country. With many job openings and vacant positions, we are missing the opportunity to create jobs that British Columbians are demanding and for which there are many openings.

CAOT-BC recommends that the additional training spaces be put into place via a distributed model with the addition of 8 seats to the UBC Vancouver campus, 24 seats in a Fraser Health cohort and 16 seats in Northern Health, cohorts that are matched to the distribution gaps. With many qualified applicants coming from these regions, we are confident that the distributed cohorts will serve to support recruitment and retention in those underserved regions. 

With a focus on enabling people to engage in necessary daily activities following injury, illness, disability or other barriers, occupational therapists are a vital health care team member. Occupational therapists help individuals overcome these challenges to maximize their participation and function in their daily activities as well as optimize their quality of life.

Giovanna Boniface, OT, Reg. OT (BC)
National Director of Professional Affairs
Managing Director (CAOT-BC)
Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists
613-523-2268 or 800-434-2268 ext. 265
Fax: 613-523-2552

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