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Shortage of health science professionals creates crisis in BC communities

British Columbia's acute shortage of health science professionals is leaving some BC communities without access to critical health services. Physiotherapy, pharmacy, radiation therapy and ultrasound are just some of the professions where shortages are particularly severe.

To raise awareness about this growing problem, the Health Sciences Association of British Columbia (HSA) is launching a province-wide campaign calling on government, health authorities and post-secondary institutions to act quickly.

"Most people know that there is a shortage of doctors and nurses, but they may not be aware that many other health care professions are also facing a crisis," explains HSA President Cindy Stewart. "The public needs to understand that unless these shortages are addressed, wait times for diagnosis and treatment will continue to grow."

As an example, Stewart cites the following:

· This year, ultrasound services were unavailable in Terrace for six months because the hospital was unable to fill a maternity leave vacancy. The hospital also had closures in the laboratory because no relief staff were available.

· In Trail, the mammography department has closed several times because there are no mammographers available to provide relief. As a result, some patients are waiting up to three months for a diagnostic mammogram.

· On Thanksgiving weekend all open heart surgery was cancelled at Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster because of a shortage of perfusionists. Royal Columbian has had a vacancy for a perfusionist since May, and another went on sick leave just before the long weekend.

Stewart says cuts to training programs, declining working conditions and an ageing workforce have all contributed to the problem. She says the government must develop a comprehensive recruitment and retention strategy to keep health science professionals from leaving BC.

"Our members are intimately involved in every step of health care delivery including diagnosis, treatment and recovery," Stewart points out. "Doctors and nurses cannot be expected to perform their jobs properly if clinicians and technologists are not there to provide the necessary supports."

HSA's campaign to highlight the shortages includes a series of ads that will appear in community newspapers during the next few weeks. Health science professionals will also raise the issue with their MLAs, labour councils and local health authorities.

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For more information, contact:
Rebecca Maurer, Director of Communications
(604)439-0994 or (604)970-8196 cell.

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