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Online Petition Demands Licences for Foreign-Trained Doctors

The Ontario provincial government and the province’s medical profession’s regulatory body are being taken to task to resolve the long-simmering issue of insufficient residency spots for foreign-trained doctors.

Mitra Arjang and Parampal Ghoshal, who are Iran- and India-trained doctors, respectively, are using the Internet for their campaign. They have started an online petition, asking the Ontario provincial government and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) to grant transitional licences for foreign-trained doctors who have passed the necessary Canadian exams.

Arjang and Ghoshal say the ‘transitional’ licences should allow them to work them in a restricted capacity under supervision until they are qualified to work on their own. This way, they suggest to be able to bypass the residency requirement, which is the stumbling block for most foreign-trained doctors wishing to practise in the province.

In their petition, the two doctors say the CPSO, “without convincing clear reasons or explanations, and in defiance of the law, is unfairly denying licenses to highly qualified immigrant medical doctors.”

The Association of International Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, which is a non-governmental group lobbing on behalf of the foreign-trained doctors, says there are about 7,500 immigrant doctors living in Canada’s largest province which attracts the most number of the 250,000 immigrants who come to Canada every year.

About 2,000 of them have reportedly passed all the qualifying exams – which range from the Canadian Medical Exams and received the Licentiate of Medical Council of Canada, the Ontario Clinical Assessment Exams, English Language Exams – and had many interviews but are struck without a residency.

Issues Faced by Foreign-Trained Doctors

The problems faced by foreign-trained doctors in Canada are well documented, and many have pointed out the disconnect between the country’s immigration policies and the practises of regulatory bodies. Under the points-based immigration system, they get extra points for the reported need for doctors in Canada, but practising in provinces like Ontario is a whole different story. Thousands of them give up the hope of resuming their practise and end up doing jobs totally different.

In fact, there is even a joke that if one is sick, he or she should take a cab, because the chance of meeting an unemployed doctor driving the taxi is pretty high.

But for many, this is a waste of resource of both the country that trained them, and for the doctors who want to work but cannot.

But the CPSO is defending itself, saying there has been progress in resolving the issue. For example, it points out that more than 40-percent of the just over 3,600 licences issued last year were issued to foreign-trained doctors. The agency also says that it has increased the residencies available for foreign doctors from 24 to 200 during the past ten years, and is citing lack of resources as the key reason for not being able to issue all qualified foreign doctors a residency.

And the federal and provincial levels of government have indeed taken note of the issue, and have been funding special projects to help the foreign-trained doctors.

Just earlier this month, the government gave an almost three-million dollar grant to the Medical Council of Canada to create a centralized online system for the foreign-trained doctors to apply for medical licences in any of the provinces or territories. At present, applications have to be made to the respective province or territory.

The system is expected to be go online in two years time.

But for foreign-trained doctors, the problem is not about applying. It is about being able to practise once t hey pass all the needed exams.

And as for Arjang and Ghoshal’s petition, there are already 175 signatures.

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