NL will cover license fees for Ukrainian doctors fleeing war

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador will cover licensing fees for Ukrainian health care providers seeking to work in the province. (Paul Daly/CBC)

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey says his government is working to reduce barriers for foreign-trained doctors as it launches efforts to help newly-minted Ukrainian healthcare professionals managed to get their license.

Furey spoke to reporters Monday after meeting with several federal ministers and Atlantic Canadian premiers in St. John’s.

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss growth in the region, but reporters’ questions turned to the doctor shortage plaguing the four Atlantic provinces.

The prime minister said there was “no quick fix”, but he and his counterparts agree it should be easier for foreign doctors to practice in the region, especially family doctors.

Furey referred to the “perfect storm” which means foreign-trained doctors face longer delays in getting their credentials recognized at the same time there is a dire need for doctors.

Furey’s remarks came as his government rolls out supports to help newly arrived Ukrainian healthcare professionals navigate the province’s licensing requirements.

Newfoundland and Labrador was at the forefront of Canadian efforts to relocate Ukrainians fleeing Russian attacks, even chartering two planes from Poland to St. John’s. But last week, Maryna Sikorska, a Ukrainian doctor who arrived in the province on June 14, said she was frustrated with a lack of communication or guidance from government officials.

She said she knew others who felt similarly stuck.

Cost support, income support

Three years ago, Newfoundland and Labrador had the second highest proportion of foreign-trained doctors in the country, according to a report by the Canadian Medical Association. The report said about 37% of doctors working in the province in 2019 had been trained in other countries. That number has since fallen to about 29%, a spokesperson for the province’s medical association said in an email Monday.

Meanwhile, survey figures released last month by the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association suggest nearly a quarter of the province’s 522,875 people do not have a family doctor.

A man stands at the microphone during a press conference.  He stands in front of a Newfoundland and Labrador flag.
Tom Osborne is Newfoundland and Labrador’s Minister of Health. (Patrick Butler/Radio Canada)

Health Minister Tom Osborne said on Monday he met with 11 newly arrived Ukrainians with healthcare expertise last Thursday to discuss their concerns. The province has agreed to cover licensing fees for Ukrainians who want to be certified to practice in the province, and the health ministry will appoint a designated person to help them navigate the licensing process, he said. in an interview.

Officials will also offer English lessons and work to place Ukrainians in health care jobs while they apply for a license, although the jobs are likely to be different from those for which they are qualified in Ukraine, Osborne said. .

The government is also considering providing income support during the licensing process, he added.

“We need healthcare professionals in this province, and we need to be better and more competitive in order to attract and retain those healthcare professionals,” Osborne said.

Foreign-trained doctors from Ukraine and other countries can help fill that need, he said.

Licensing is a complicated process and involves certification from national and provincial bodies, Osborne said. Applicants must also meet language proficiency requirements.

He said the government was working with regulatory bodies, including the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Newfoundland and Labrador, to ensure the process is accessible without compromising standards of practice.

“We don’t want to lower the bar, but we want to lower the barriers,” Osborne said.

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