Open doors to doctors

By Mehmet Oner

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the severe shortage of doctors in Canada. According to a recent report from the Royal Bank of Canada, the number of adults without access to a family physician rose from 4.6 million to nearly six million in 2019. The same report shows that Canada needs to train and recruit 30,000 doctors by 2028.

A signal to the world

As Canada continues to experience a nationwide shortage of qualified doctors, the Canadian Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Agency (IRCC) announced changes to its Express Entry system to make it easier for more doctors to obtain permanent residency. In addition, the changes introduce a substantial exemption for physicians who cannot qualify for Express Entry because they were previously considered self-employed. “We’re going to be sending a signal to the world that we want you to come to Canada, and we want you to know that you’ve got a pathway to permanent residency that is much faster than many economies around the world,” said Immigration Minister Sean Fraser in a news release dated Sep. 23. The new regulation will also make it easier for doctors who are currently residing in Canada and working outside of their profession to obtain permanent residency.

Regulation does not offer job guarantees to doctors

Although the regulation makes it easier for foreign-trained doctors to obtain permanent residency in Canada over Express Entry, it does not mean that doctors can practice their profession in Canada. In Canada, which leads the G7 for the most educated workforce, only 41.1 percent of doctors with foreign medical degrees work as doctors, according to a Statistics Canada census data released at the end of November. The remaining 58.9, according to the report, could increase doctors in Canada by 15,730 if they could work in their vocations.

A long and gruelling road

Doctors who immigrate to Canada have a long road ahead of them before they can practice here. Foreign-trained physicians must first have graduated from a university listed in the World Directory of Medical schools to work in Canada. Thereafter, their credentials, degrees, and transcripts must be approved by the Medical Council of Canada (MCC) in order to obtain an Education Credential Assessment (ECA) report. After approval, candidates must receive their ECA reports via the website. Once these stages are completed, if a doctor is a permanent resident of Canada, they may become a Licentiate of the Medical Council of Canada (LMCC) after completing the required testing and training. Beyond that, each province and territory has its own medical regulatory authorities with different requirements. This procedure answers why almost 60 percent of doctors who immigrated to Canada cannot do their jobs. The new regulation of the Ministry of Immigration regarding permanent residency is significant but only a minor part of the process.

An average of 3,000 doctors immigrate to Canada each year

Despite the difficulty of the procedure, Canada ranks fourth in the list of countries receiving the most immigration in the world. According to the OECD report examining the migration of doctors worldwide, the first three are the United Kingdom, the United States and Spain, respectively. An average of 8,700 physicians migrated to the U.K. annually between 2010 and 2010, while the U.S. followed by 7800. The average annual doctor migration to Spain is around 5000. Canada, where an average of 3000 doctors migrate annually, cannot meet the need for 30,000 additional doctors by 2028 at this rate.

According to the OECD report, Saudi Arabia, India, and the United Kingdom are at the top of the list of countries Canada receives the most doctors from. Between 2010 and 2020, an average of 200 doctors immigrated from Saudi Arabia to Canada annually, followed by India with an average of 190 doctors and the U.K. with 160 doctors.