With new bylaws in place, recruiting physicians from other countries has become more difficult for B.C. hospitals, says Dr. Glenn Fedor of Williams Lake.
In the past, physicians from other countries wrote the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C. outlining training and experience, and if their credentials fit the criteria, they were invited to apply for a temporary licence to come to Canada.
They would still have to write exams to be evaluated, their training would be evaluated, and if they passed the exams they would be hired.
Saskatchewan and Alberta changed that and opened the doors to physicians coming from almost everywhere.
“There’s a lot of talk that Canada is a little bit racist at times when you think we accept doctors from countries like South Africa, England, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and the United States. Everyone else was basically not recognized,” Fedor explains.
When they moved to open it up, Alberta and Saskatchewan stipulated that all general practitioners had to complete a three-month supervised internship within a teaching hospital.
Saskatchewan pays the doctors, and someone has to pay the hospital for providing the internship and supervision, to the tune of around $30,000 to $40,000.
“Someone takes the doctor on, evaluates him, sees what he does, and makes a decision that they are good enough for the Canadian system,” Fedor says.
As of Feb. 1, 2012, a similar system is in place in B.C.
By changing a bylaw, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C. has opened its doors to accept doctors from all over the world, but the hitch is there is no money from the health authorities in B.C. to pay for the training or to pay the doctors while they participate in a three-month internship.
“Who’s going to come here and be supervised in a teaching hospital for three months and make no money? It’s really tough,” Fedor says.
There are, however, exceptions to the new rules.
Some countries have allowed the Canadian College of Family Physicians to audit and review teaching programs for family doctors in other countries and then doctors coming from those countries do not have to go through the internship program.
Fedor says so far Australia, New Zealand, the U.S., Sweden, Ireland and England have let their programs be reviewed.
“South Africa said they weren’t going to let that happen. They said we’re stealing their doctors all the time. Why doesn’t the Canadian system train its own doctors? The last thing they want is for Canada to say the South African system is great and let their doctors in,” Fedor says.
As a result, South African doctors are being treated no differently than doctors from places that did not opt for the review.
As long as there’s no funding in B.C. for the internship training, doctors coming from other countries like South Africa or Romania will have to go to Alberta or Saskatchewan first and then maybe try coming to work in B.C. later.
Fedor points out that aside from a change in the bylaws, there has also been international pressure asking why Canada depends so heavily on foreign medical grads.
“There’s a ridiculous number of Canadian students studying medicine in other countries,” he says.
He also thinks B.C. was forced to change its rules because of the changes made by its neighbouring provinces.
“It makes it difficult when the province next to you has totally different rules.”
The unfortunate thing, he adds, is that the rules were changed, but no funding was put in place.