Wendy Marchlewitz owns and works out of the Phoenix Physiotherapy Clinic in Prince George. It’s been a busy summer.
“I’m booked with 40 patients and working double shifts all week and doing it again next week,” says Marchlewitz, “because there is no one available for locum, there’s not an excess of physiotherapists to fill the gaps for people who want to have vacation and stay fresh.”
The Conference Board of Canada released a report highlighting the shortages of physiotherapists, especially rural and remote areas. “Rural areas are a lot more sparse in population, there may not be a centre located with physiotherapists,” says Greg Sutherland, the Principal Economist for the Conference Board of Canada. “So there might be issues with being able to, lets say, go to a clinic or a hospital, or even have a physiotherapist provide an in-home visit.”
Marchlewitz says many of her patients are traveling to Prince George from smaller communities, some coming from as far as Quesnel and Chetwynd.
Sutherland says in 2014, the unemployment rate for physiotherapists was 0.3%. He adds nearly 90% of Canada’s physiotherapists are employed in urban areas.
Amidst a growing demand for the practice, Marchlewitz says recruitment can be difficult. “I have a therapist going on maternity leave in December, and I am working like crazy to recruit someone…We had 2 girls from Prince George accepted to the UBC program, but when they were done they had a life in Vancouver and neither one came back to Prince George.”
Through the Northern and Rural Cohort of the Master of Physical Therapy (MPT) program, 20 UBC students complete most of their clinical placements in Prince George and surrounding communities. However, Marchlewitz would like to see a full academic program at UNBC. “Making a school here available in the north will help people who want to live in the north do their schooling in the north, establish a life in the north, and then stay in the north.”
She says other doctors and clinics are also pushing for the program. “We hope we get it sooner rather than later. It’s up to the government. We need funding to make the program happen at the University.”