By Noella Ovid
The federal government is increasing the amount of skilled immigrants allowed into the country in an effort to bolster the economy, but physicians moving to Canada for work may be disappointed.
Only about four per cent of foreign physicians who immigrate to Canada actually get to practice medicine here, said Ryerson public health expert Tim Sly. He said Canadian professionals don’t want foreigners impeding on their turf.
The federal Liberals announced the target number of immigrants in 2017 will rise from 260,000 to 300,000, increasing the target for skilled workers from 160,600 to 172,500.
Ryerson has a program to help skilled medical professionals find health-care jobs. The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education offers the Internationally Trained Medical Doctors (ITMD) Bridging Program, which is designed to integrate foreign doctors into Canada’s health-care system and help them find work in non-licensed health-care employment.
Distinguished visiting professor Shafi Bhuiyan launched the program in January 2015.
“Canada brings in … fully-qualified physicians under the pretext they can come to Canada … [and] have no trouble at all,” Sly, a professor of epidemiology at Ryerson, said.
“They arrive here and then suddenly realize they cannot practice as a physician without going through an awful lot of steps and hurdles and obstacles.”
He said Citizenship and Immigration Canada is not accurately representing job availability.
“Their message should be stopped immediately,” said Sly.
“Before [foreign medical professionals] even … apply to immigrate, they should be told, ‘Well if you come to Canada, we’d be pleased to have you here but don’t think you can just practise medicine.’”
Sly said the statistics are concerning. “[Immigrants] have to find something else to do at a time when we have need for physicians in small communities in the north and in rural areas.”
The ITMD Bridging Program assists those who are looking to remain in the medical industry by providing them with health research and health management positions.
“It’ll be still in the realm of medicine. They wouldn’t lose that altogether, but certainly what a waste for somebody who’s maybe even a specialist, or a consultant, or even a teacher or a professor of medicine in their own country,” Sly said. “They’re being obstructed in a sense, being stopped from practising.” The 12-week ITMD Bridging Program recruits about 20 participants out of several hundred applicants twice each year in the fall and winter semesters. They are offered four courses to provide them with the additional skills needed to gain employment, including research methodology, data management and leadership.
“In the long run, their skills will help to establish their reputation and they should do well, whether they get into medicine again or not,” Sly said.
Marie Bountrogianni, dean of The Chang School, said Canada benefits from the “unique skills sets and diverse, international training and experience” skilled immigrants bring.
Students can participate in an optional four-week practicum placement at a leading health-care organization in Toronto, such as St. Michael’s Hospital and Toronto Public Health. Upon the completion of the program, they are eligible to earn a professional development award from The Chang School.
The total fee for the ITMD Bridging Program is $2,196.
Sly said that the program is set to be offered at Ryerson over roughly a five-year period and they are planning to offer a second, more advanced program at the University of Toronto in the future.
“This is kind of an infilling, like a first-aid process I think, until the government begins to wake up and do what’s right,” said Sly.
Bountrogianni said a new four-year commitment from Ryerson will allow the program to take up to 25 participants per session.