Amid a shortage of healthcare professionals, medical students and new doctors in Canada are struggling to find opportunities in their field to fill a much-needed gap in the country’s healthcare system.
dr Desmond Leddin, a professor of medicine at Dalhousie University in Halifax, says more Canadians are looking outside of Canada to complete their medical degree or find training programs in their field in order to land a job.
Leddin said Canada must scale up the process of admitting new students into medical school as the country continues to struggle with shortages of nurses and doctors as hospitals are overwhelmed by a “triple epidemic” of flu, RSV and COVID-19.
According to the Canadian Institution for Health Information, 93,998 physicians worked in Canada in 2021, a slight two percent increase compared to 2020, when 92,166 physicians were reported. This corresponds to about 246 doctors per 100,000 inhabitants.
“One in 10 students who apply to medical school in Canada gets admitted,” Leddin told CTV’s Your Morning on Friday. “The number of seats is limited. That was a decision made a few years ago when, incredibly, it was now determined that there was a doctor surplus and those changes were made and not reversed.”
Once medical students complete their undergraduate degree, they must complete postgraduate medical training, or a “residence” at a medical facility, to gain hands-on experience in their field, Leddin explains. In Canada, however, many students struggle to find residency, leading many to look outside the country to complete their education.
“These students who practice abroad are struggling to access postgraduate education in Canada and as a result they are going to the United States and Britain and other countries instead of coming home,” Leddin said.
Additionally, international physicians face similar hurdles to practice in Canada due to the difficult process of obtaining a medical license.
Currently, non-Canadian physicians and naturopaths trained outside of Canada often have to go through a lengthy and costly process in order to be licensed to work in their field.
THERE ARE SOLUTIONS
For practitioners from Canada who are being trained outside the country, Leddin says more provinces are beginning to offer more opportunities for medical graduates who studied abroad, but the process is slowly beginning to unfold.
In August, Newfoundland announced five residencies for Canadian students who were educated abroad and wish to return home. In addition, this month Nova Scotia has created 10 undergraduate positions open to both Canadians and non-Canadians who have been educated abroad.
A similar program can also help get more help from international and Canadian healthcare workers.
Health experts have also called for a simpler process to streamline overseas doctors who wish to practice in Canada through a national program. This year, former Canadian Medical Association President Dr. Katherine Smart, a provincial licensing pathway to help alleviate Canada’s health crisis by accelerating the process to hire more health workers from around the world.