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  • Zubair Huda

Canada's Healthcare System Requires More Immigrant Doctors Amidst Population Growth and Family Doctor Shortage




Canada's healthcare system faces challenges due to a population boom exceeding five million in the past decade, with only 167 medical residencies added during the same period. This limited growth has made it difficult for many Canadians to secure regular access to a family doctor. A recent survey revealed that over 6.5 million Canadians do not regularly have access to a family physician, which has a significant impact on the country's citizens. Governments at the federal, provincial, and territorial levels are working to address this issue by encouraging an increase in the immigration of qualified healthcare professionals.


Immigrants account for 25% of all workers in the healthcare sector in Canada, with specific percentages in various healthcare professions:


  • 23% of registered nurses

  • 35% of nurse aides and related occupations

  • 37% of pharmacists

  • 36% of physicians

  • 39% of dentists

  • 54% of dental technologists and related occupations

However, foreign nationals trained as doctors in other countries, known as International Medical Graduates (IMGs), often encounter difficulties in obtaining medical residencies in Canada due to quotas on the number of IMGs who can secure a spot. Additionally, IMGs face challenges in pursuing medical practice in Canada because the residency system is managed by medical schools that prioritize their own graduates.


Canada is losing out on hundreds of qualified doctors each year due to a tangle of red tape that makes it difficult for foreign-trained doctors to be licensed if they weren't educated at a Canadian medical school. The medical residency program is segregated, which makes it difficult for Canadian doctors who went to schools in countries like Australia, Ireland, and the UK to come home and slide into the entry-level work required to be licensed.


The Canadian government has released a comprehensive plan to enhance capacity for the foreign credential recognition of approximately 6600 healthcare professionals, along with increasing the influx of qualified healthcare professionals to Canada. This project aims to improve health workforce planning, retention, and the streamlining of foreign credential recognition so that new health professionals arriving in Canada can apply their skills and expertise faster.


Despite these efforts, Canadian medical graduates are becoming less interested in family medicine, with the percentage of graduates choosing family medicine residency training decreasing by more than 7% over the previous nine years. Every year, almost 1,000 more family physicians leave the field than join it, indicating a significant loss of interest in family medicine among Canadian medical practitioners.


Limited expansion in medical residency programs and the growing population are also contributing to the shortage of family doctors in Canada. Canada's healthcare system is tackling challenges for IMGs by dedicating resources to the recognition of foreign credentials and increasing the influx of qualified healthcare professionals to Canada.



 

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