Fund national program for foreign-trained doctors: task force
Last Updated Fri, 12 Mar 2004 18:03:35
HALIFAX - It's time to tap into a ready supply of foreign-trained physicians for Canada's looming shortage of doctors, a new task force report said.

At this time of year, graduating medical students wait to be matched for residency programs, but many foreign-trained doctors say the door to residencies and jobs are often closed to them.

Last year's statistics show of 600 foreign-trained applicants, 100 were matched, said Qasim Sayed, a family doctor from Pakistan who is trying to get a residency spot.

International Medical Graduates

No one knows how many international medical graduates or IMGs there are in Canada, but some estimates are as high as 10,000.

Most come from Asia, the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

"With a relatively short period of training, they could be up and doing these jobs quickly, as opposed to a Canadian where you'd have to start at day one in medical school," said Dr. Dale Dauphinee, executive director of the Medical Council of Canada.

Dauphinee chaired the task force, which recommended expanding programs and funding to access and upgrade the skills of foreign-trained doctors through a standardized, national process.

"The biggest barrier is we don't have any understanding of their education and training," said Dr. Cameron Little, the registrar of Nova Scotia's College of Physicians and Surgeons.

Little said passing the Canadian medical exam doesn't give a true picture of a doctor's skill. He agrees candidates need to be more thoroughly assessed.

Ontario is leading the way by creating new upgrading opportunities.

"We've gone from 24 positions in 1986 to 200 positions in the year 2004," said Brad Sinclair, head of the new Ontario International Medical Graduate Clearinghouse. The program aims to get foreign-trained doctors back to work in their fields of expertise.

This month, Health Canada pledged $4 million to establish a national program. Little called it a start, but said realistically, it will take more money.