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foreign-trained doctors credential recognition

Ontario to launch foreign-trained doctors credential recognition program

Foreign-trained doctors credential recognition program

The province of Ontario is planning to launch a foreign-trained doctors credential recognition program to alleviate physician shortages. The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) announced that the three-month program to recognize the foreign credentials of physicians could be launched by April 2023.

In Canada, physicians regulation and licensing happens at the provincial level. The federal government is encouraging the provincial governments to improve the process by offering funding to help with the work. The last federal budget included $115 million for that effort.

Before a foreign-trained physician can practice in Canada, they must have their qualifications recognized by the appropriate Canadian bodies.

See also Canada doctor shortages – immigration opportunity for foreign-trained doctors

CPSO is the self-regulating body for Ontario’s medical profession.

Canada’s federal and provincial governments have identified credential recognition as a challenge to foreign-trained doctors who desire to work and settle in Canada. Credential recognition and/or finding timely ways to get their credentials upgraded to Canada requirements (re-credentialling) is a known challenge.

Seven other Canadian provinces already set up Practice Ready Assessment (PRA) programs to support the licensing of foreign-trained doctors.

CPSO proposal for a foreign-trained doctors credential recognition program

CPSO proposed the program in a submission to Ontario Health Minister Sylvia Jones in 2022. Through theprogram, CPSO would:

  • rapidly assess the credentials of foreign-trained doctors over a 12-week period through supervision and direct observation;
  • deploy successful candidates to underserviced communities, and;
  • provide a path to independent licensing for these foreign-trained doctors.

“With government funding and coordination among key system partners, a program could be implemented immediately and begin injecting a new supply of IEPs into the system as early as spring 2023 and onwards,” notes the CPSO in its submission.

CPSO is also advocating for more residency positions for internationally-trained physicians.

A major hurdle for foreign medical graduates to practicing medicine in Canada is the lack of residency spots.

“As only a small number of residency positions are accessible to internationally-educated physicians, Ontario is essentially limiting the opportunity to quickly grow our base of future physicians and support (them),” noted the CPSO.

“We ask the government to immediately increase the number of residency positions available to internationally-educated physicians. 

“With consideration to how this increase in positions may impact other jurisdictions facing their own health human resource shortage, government should create targeted or additional spots for internationally-educated physicians already in the province, including Canadians who have studied abroad and are looking to complete their residency in Ontario.”

Canada doctor shortages is at crisis level

Canada is facing severe labour shortages in the healthcare sector. In early 2022, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) alerted that the need for more healthcare workers in the country is at a critical point. The CMA warned:

“Two years into the pandemic, organizations representing health workers across the country are sounding the alarm that Canada’s health care system is collapsing.

Without immediate action, there is little to hope for in the future. While Canadians are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel and public health measures are being loosened, the same cannot be said for health workers. 

On top of severe exhaustion and burnout from working through two years of COVID-19, healthcare workers now face both massive system backlogs and a shortage of colleagues to cope with demands.”

Canada doctor shortages – Quick facts from IRCC

  • IRCC continues to prioritize temporary resident work permit applications for essential workers in health care.
  • In 2022, IRCC has accepted over 8,600 temporary and permanent resident applications from foreign nationals intending to work in the health sector.
  • In 2021, IRCC approved work permit and work permit extension applications for over 2,500 specialized physicians, 620 nurses, and 550 nurses’ aides and orderlies.
  • Since 2015, over 22,400 people, including nearly just over 3,600 physicians and 8,600 nurses, became permanent residents through Express Entry and the Provincial Nominee Program.
  • Economic programs under Express Entry for physicians include, the Federal Skilled Worker Program and the Canadian experience class.
  • As of June 2022, approximately 4,300 permanent residents were admitted under the health care streams of the time-limited Temporary Residence to Permanent Residence Pathway.
  • The Government of Canada is seeking to build on the success of Express Entry to better respond to a range of evolving economic needs and priorities, including through legislative changes introduced in Bill C-19. The provisions came into force upon Royal Assent on June 23 and will be fully implemented following changes to internal IT systems.

Foreign-trained doctors can now participate in Express Entry system

In September 2022, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser announced changes to the express entry system to motivate more foreign-trained doctors to come to Canada. Fraser said that doctors would receive an exemption to allow them to apply for the federal express entry system.

Canada uses the Express Entry immigration pool draws system to manage permanent residence (PR) applications. It is the most popular way to immigrate to Canada.

Previously, Express Entry was not available to foreign doctors because it isn’t open to people who are self-employed. Because many doctors work using a fee-for-service model, they were precluded from being able to apply for the express entry system.