Would changing the way doctors in Canada are licensed help reduce the doctor shortage? This member thinks he could

Thunder Bay-Rainy River MPP Marcus Powlowski plans to make recommendations to the federal government aimed at easing the doctor shortage in rural Northwestern Ontario and other parts of Canada.

Powlowski, an emergency physician and member of the House Standing Committee on Health, recently traveled to Atikokan, Fort Frances, Rainy River and Kenora to talk with doctors about the challenges they face.

Rural hospitals across the province, including in the northwest, are struggling to keep their emergency rooms open in the face of an unprecedented shortage of doctors and nurses.

In March, Margaret Cochenour Memorial Hospital in Red Lake was forced to close its emergency room for 24 hours due to a lack of available doctors. It came hours after a second shutdown last month.

Hospitals in Ottawa, Perth, Carleton Place and Mount Forest also faced emergency closures.

Marcus Powlowski, MP for Thunder Bay-Rainy River, is also an emergency physician and a member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

Powlowski’s proposed recommendations, outlined in a press release Monday, would require the federal government to work with the provinces to make changes.

The proposals are:

  • Ask the federal government to establish a national license for doctors, so that doctors can practice anywhere in Canada without having to be licensed in each province.
  • Ask the Ontario government to implement practice readiness assessments (PRAs) for international medical graduates, which would allow internationally trained physicians to be licensed after just 12 weeks of supervised practice , as opposed to the current year or more.
  • Ask the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) to increase the number of residency positions, particularly family medicine residencies, for international graduates, including in rural areas.
  • That the federal and provincial governments work together to allow physicians from certain countries to practice in Canada without further certification or training.

« Nothing safe not to open the emergency room »

« Certainly the colleges of physicians and surgeons need to ensure that those licensed to practice in Canada are of an adequate standard, » Powlowski told CBC.

« But as they decide who should be credentialed…I think they also need to understand the fact that there’s nothing safe about not opening the ER because of the shortage of doctors, and it doesn’t There’s nothing safe either when people don’t have a family doctor. »

Powlowski plans to meet with several national health care groups, including colleges of physicians and surgeons and physician organizations, to finalize his recommendations before presenting them to the Minister of Health in early fall, he said. -he declares.

The Fort Frances and Rainy River area physician recruiter said he welcomes Powlowski’s proposal for practice readiness assessments.

« If you can get a doctor for … three to four years and you have 12 or 16 weeks of supervision to help them, I think that’s a really good deal actually, » Todd Hamilton said.

Hamilton said he was also supported last week by news that Ontario Health Minister Sylvia Jones had given the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) and the College of Nurses of Ontario two weeks to develop a plan to expedite the registration of internationally trained healthcare workers .

However, Hamilton said he was unsure how much the move would benefit the North West.

Todd Hamilton, physician recruiter for the Fort Frances and District Physician Recruitment Retention Committee, says he welcomes Powlowski’s proposal to shorten the process for overseeing international medical graduates. (Submitted by Todd Hamilton)

« I don’t see much in the article that they would use either [international medical graduate] physicians or nurses and assign them specifically to communities in need in northern or northwestern Ontario.

Still, he added, « for health care in general, it’s important for them to spare no effort. »

The president and CEO of Lake of the Woods District Hospital said he has seen progress with the college on allowing out-of-province physicians to work in the emergency department from his hospital.

« We had our first Manitoba doctor go through this process and get licensed, and that doctor is taking shifts this weekend, so we weren’t facing a closure, » Ray Racette said Friday. .

« We’re really, really excited that the CPSO is ready to do this. »

Racette and the hospital’s chief of staff, Dr. Sean Moore, previously told CBC that the CPSO licensing process for Manitoba doctors often took months and deterred doctors vacationing in the province. area to volunteer to take shifts at the hospital. In response, the CPSO said its processing time was two to three weeks.

Ray Racette, president and CEO of Lake of the Woods District Hospital in Kenora, says the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario quickly processed a request from a Manitoba doctor so the doctor could help fill shifts at the emergency room in Kenora. He hopes two other Manitoba doctors will have a similar experience. (Logan Turner/CBC)

Racette said he now hopes the college will provide similar expedited service to two other Manitoba doctors seeking licensure in Ontario.

The vacancy rate at Lake of the Woods District Hospital currently sits at 41%, Racette said, down 44% in June.

There is still no news on other proposals to alleviate the shortage of doctors in Northwestern Ontario, which have been presented to politicians by the Northwestern Regional Council of Chiefs of Staff in March, according to Dr. Sarah Newbery, Associate Dean of Physician Workforce Strategy in Northern Ontario. Faculty of Medicine of the University.

These proposals include supporting physicians working alone in rural northern emergency rooms with real-time virtual access to specialists, and funding medical residents to accompany replacements from their medical schools who work in the region. .


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