Canada’s healthcare crisis: Immigrant doctors needed amid population boom

The surge in population coupled with various factors constraining the availability of family doctors nationwide has led to significant repercussions for citizens across the country.

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Canada is grappling with a severe shortage of family doctors amid a population boom, with over 6.5 million Canadians lacking regular access to primary care physicians. 

Rising population, dwindling physicians

Despite this growth, the country has only added a meager 167 medical residencies during the same period, exacerbating the difficulty many Canadians encounter in securing regular access to primary care physicians,  the CIC news reported.

In a previous report, more than 6.5 million Canadians lack regular access to a family doctor, underscoring the gravity of the situation. 

The surge in population coupled with various factors constraining the availability of family doctors nationwide has led to significant repercussions for citizens across the country.

To address this critical issue, both federal and provincial/territorial governments are focusing on increasing the immigration of qualified healthcare professionals. 

However, International Medical Graduates (IMGs), who constitute a significant portion of healthcare workers in Canada, encounter barriers in obtaining medical residencies due to quotas and preferential treatment for domestic graduates within the residency system.

Dr. Kathleen Ross, president of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA), emphasized the urgent need for more primary care doctors, stating that Canada’s healthcare system is failing to produce an adequate number of homegrown physicians to meet the nation’s health demands.

Government’s response

In response to the challenges faced by IMGs, Canada is investing in the recognition of foreign credentials. 

The Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has pledged up to $86 million to support the recognition of international credentials for approximately 6,600 highly skilled immigrant healthcare professionals. The initiative aims to ensure that foreign-trained doctors can contribute effectively to Canada’s healthcare workforce.

Moreover, Canada is exploring additional avenues to address the shortage of family doctors. Declining interest in family medicine among Canadian medical graduates has contributed to the scarcity of primary care physicians. 

Efforts to expand medical school capacity and establish new medical schools are underway in provinces such as Ontario, Prince Edward Island (PEI), and British Columbia. These initiatives aim to increase the number of medical training spaces and bolster the healthcare workforce in the coming years.

Financial boost for accreditation

Canada has allocated $86 million to expedite accreditation for internationally educated health professionals (IEHPs) to address concerns of prolonged wait times and physician shortages.

The initiative aims to tackle these challenges by improving the capability to recognize foreign credentials, thereby benefiting around 6,600 IEHPs. This investment is anticipated to offer educated and skilled immigrants the proper recognition of their international qualifications.

The funded projects aim to reduce barriers for IEHPs by improving recognition processes, simplifying credential recognition steps, and enhancing access to field practice. 

IEHPs will also receive support in gaining Canadian work experience, along with assistance such as childcare, transportation, and mentoring/coaching. Efforts will be made to facilitate mobility between provinces, eliminating barriers for those seeking to work in different jurisdictions within Canada.

Express Entry prioritization

Due to the persistent shortage of healthcare workers in Canada, healthcare occupations have been given priority in the Express Entry system’s category-based draws. 

Last year, the IRCC initiated category-based draws, with healthcare occupations being among the prioritized categories. 

According to data from IRCC, 36 percent of physicians and 25 percent of registered nurses in Canada were born outside the country.

Around 58 percent of IEHPs in fields like nursing, medicine, pharmacy, and dentistry are working in their specialties, as per Statistics Canada.  

Out of the 259,694 IEHPs in Canada, 76 percent are currently employed, slightly lower than the 80 percent employment rate among domestically educated healthcare professionals. 

IEHPs make up a quarter of the healthcare workforce, and their numbers are expected to rise as over 500,000 healthcare workers over the age of 55 are set to retire within the next decade. 

Additionally, half of IEHPs migrated to Canada between the ages of 25 and 34, with one-third arriving between 2016 and 2021. Two-thirds of IEHPs are under 50, and seven out of 10 are women.

Jaleen Ramos

Jaleen Ramos

Jaleen Ramos has been a professional journalist for five years now. She has contributed and covered stories for premier Philippine dailies and publications, and has traveled to different parts of the country to capture and tell the most significant stories happening.

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Jaleen Ramos

Jaleen Ramos

Jaleen Ramos has been a professional journalist for five years now. She has contributed and covered stories for premier Philippine dailies and publications, and has traveled to different parts of the country to capture and tell the most significant stories happening.

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