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From today's Globe and Mail:

Ontario proposes changes to get foreign doctors working sooner


From Saturday's Globe and Mail

June 6, 2008 at 10:49 PM EDT

TORONTO — The Ontario government announced Friday on that it plans to lift restrictions on foreign-trained doctors and to fast-track applications to help them start practising as soon as they enter Canada.

The move is designed to reduce the province's critical shortage of physicians and is part of a plan that Health Minister George Smitherman said will make Ontario the country's leader in integrating foreign-trained doctors.

But critics said the push to bring more foreign doctors to Canada won't help physicians who already live here and are stuck doing odd jobs. One medical association also criticized the changes as a flawed and potentially immoral approach.

“I think we have to seriously look at the ethics,” said Karl Stobbe, president of the Society of Rural Physicians of Canada. “We lure them over here and a lot of times the countries we're taking them from … have a bigger problem than we have and we're actually making their problem worse.”

Under the proposed changes, doctors licensed in the United States and Commonwealth countries, as well as the other provinces, would be eligible to begin practising in Ontario without having to go through onerous assessments and evaluation periods. That would bring Ontario in line with other provinces, such as Alberta and British Columbia, which already have programs to tap into the talented pool of foreign doctors whose training is equivalent to Canadian requirements.

The province will also create a new “transitional licence” that would eliminate the need for foreign-trained physicians to wait years before being allowed to practise. The changes would let foreign specialists whose credentials differ substantially from Canadian requirements practise in a supervised setting. The transitional licence would last between two and five years, during which the doctors would be responsible for undergoing training to meet Canadian requirements.

“This is a total change in the way we do things,” said Laurel Broten, parliamentary assistant to the Health Minister and author of the government's new report on reducing barriers to foreign doctors.

The government also intends to improve its ability to quickly assess internationally trained doctors in order to determine what type of training or language education they would need to work in Canada.

Mr. Smitherman said it's impossible to say how many new doctors this program could generate because it focuses on streamlining the registration process for foreign-trained physicians, not adding spots for medical residents.

“It's not about simply creating more residency positions,” Mr. Smitherman said. “This is about transitioning those specialists into opportunities without having to go through residency, and they would be supervised by existing physicians in those environments.”

Although the changes may offer some help to doctors who want to move to Canada, Conservative health critic Elizabeth Witmer criticized the government for failing to create more residency positions to help foreign-trained doctors who already live in Canada and are stuck in dead-end jobs.
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