British Columbia Enlists the Help of Retired Doctors and Nurses to Fight COVID-19

Across Canada, governments, health care organizations and health care practitioners are preparing to respond to COVID-19, an epidemic that promises to test the limits of our health care system. British Columbia is the first province to take the extraordinary measure of requesting that retired doctors and nurses return to work to boost the province’s capacity to respond to COVID-19 through testing and the provision of critical care.

The request went out on March 12, 2020 from health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix and was quickly followed up by an email campaign from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia (CPSBC) inviting physicians who have retired within the past two years to return to work. Those who choose to participate would be re-registered under the CPSBC’s emergency registration powers and assigned to work on an as-needed basis by their local health authority.

Physicians with emergency and intensive care experience are in high demand, but those without hospital experience are also being encouraged to participate. It has been suggested that these physicians may be able to work in a supervised role alongside more experienced physicians or contribute their respective expertise in other areas, such as at remote testing sites. The CPSBC’s Registrar Dr. Heidi Oetter has stated that the initial response has been encouraging.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario has not made a similar request yet, but several provinces, including Alberta, are said to be following British Columbia’s lead by implementing emergency re-registrations.

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