Amid a shortage of health-care workers, medical students and new doctors in Canada are struggling to find opportunities in their field to help fill the much-needed gap in the country’s health-care system.
Dr. Desmond Leddin, a professor of medicine at Dalhousie University in Halifax, says more Canadians are looking for opportunities outside of Canada to complete their medical studies or find training programs in their field to land a job.
Leddin says Canada needs to widen the process in accepting new students into medical school as the nation continues to struggle with a shortage of nurses and doctors as hospitals become overwhelmed with a “triple epidemic” of the flu, RSV and COVID-19.
According to the Canadian Institution for Health Information, there were 93,998 physicians that were working in Canada for 2021, a slight increase of two per cent in comparison to 2020 when 92,166 physicians were reported. This represents roughly 246 physicians per population of 100,000.
“One in 10 students who apply to medical school in Canada are admitted,” Leddin told CTV’s Your Morning on Friday. “The number of spaces is limited. That was a decision that was made a number of years ago when it was perceived, that unbelievably now, that there was a doctors surplus, and those changes were put in place and they haven’t been reversed.”
Once medical students complete their undergraduate studies, they will then need to complete postgraduate medical training or a “residency” within a medical institution to gain hands-on experience in their field, Leddin explains. However, in Canada many students are struggling to find residency opportunities which is why many look outside of the country to complete their training.
“These students who practice overseas are having difficulty in accessing postgraduate training in Canada and as a result, they’re going to the United States and Britain and other countries instead of coming home,” Leddin said.
Additionally, international doctors are facing similar hurdles to practice in Canada because of the difficult process to get a medical license.
Currently, the process for doctors and health practitioners who aren’t Canadian and trained outside of Canada often have to go through a lengthy and costly process to be approved to work in their field.
THERE ARE SOLUTIONS
For practitioners from Canada training outside of the country, Leddin says more provinces are starting to provide more opportunities for recent medical graduates who studied abroad, however the process is slowly emerging.
In August, Newfoundland announced five residency slots for Canadian students who trained overseas who are looking to come home. Additionally, Nova Scotia created 10 student training positions this month open to both Canadians and non-Canadians who trained overseas.
Similar program may also help bring in more aid from both international and Canadian health-care workers.
Health experts have also called for an easier process to streamline doctors overseas looking to practice in Canada through a national program. This year, former president of the Canadian Medical Association Dr. Katherine Smart, called for a licensing pathway for each province to help alleviate the health crisis in Canada by speeding up the process to bring in more health-care workers from around the world.