Manitoba Aims is to ease doctor shortage; program to offer training and Income Support.

Foreign trained doctors (IMG’s) will soon find the process much easier to work with in Manitoba, thanks to a newly established provincial licensure program that’s in development.

This program is aimed to lessen the province’s doctor shortage and to address the humanitarian needs of International Medical Graduates (IMG’s). And when fully implemented, it will make Manitoba one of the most progressive jurisdictions in the United States and Canada for the licensing of foreign-trained medical doctors.

Sources have confirmed the new initiative, still in its genesis phase, involves language training, clinical skills assessment and upgrading. It also involves some level of income support for participants until they receive licensure and are granted the ability to start practice. Dr. Bill Pope, elected president of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba, said the new program will dramatically streamline the process for qualified international medical doctors. The system would also offer the public ample assurance that all doctors have met Canadian standards. “What we’re trying to do is provide a system that allows for individuals with potential to undergo an assessment process in which we have confidence,” said Pope. “I think this could be quite benificial for all parties.”

Doctors arriving in Canada as immigrants or refugees are often times discouraged from seeking a medical licensure. Those still wishing to pursue a career in medicine must negotiate a complicated and costly series of evaluating and licensing examinations, without provincial (government) aid for language or academic upgrading. For those who pass the examinations, there still exists barriers. In both Canada and the United States, foreign-trained doctors are required to perform up to two years in a hospital residency program. However, they have generally been systemically excluded from the resident programs, creating a challenging catch-22 situation.

As immigrants with little financial resources, these doctors are expected to pay their examination fees and other academic costs without the support of government. Interestingly, The Manitoba Human Rights Commission is considering a complaint from a resident of that province who claims he’s been denied a medical licence because of systemic discrimination. Some in the government believe foreign-trained doctors weren’t given a fair chance to prove they have the skills and knowledge to practice medicine in Manitoba or Canada.
And with a North American shortage of physicians, Chomiak said he wants to make it a priority to open up new opportunities for the foreign medical graduates.

The Association of Foreign Medical Graduates would not comment on the new initiative until all its members had been consulted. However, a majority of foreign-trained doctors are still somewhat skeptical about the province’s plans. The province’s proposal will does very little for those already living in Manitoba who may have been out of practice for many years. There is also a concern the province has done little or nothing to deal with concerns about the national residency matching service that is the focal point of complaints of systemic discrimination.

As it stands today, international medical graduates (IMGs) are not allowed to compete for residency positions with Canadian graduates in the initial round of the national resident matching service. IMGs are only allowed to compete in a second round, but few have found residency positions through that avenue.

Any step forward is progressive. But this is seen as a modest step forward for a minority of IMGs. The system still discriminates against IMGs. This IMG initiatve presents a real opportunity for Physician Jobs Canada and the Manitoba Government to work towards a common recruitment goal.

The highlights of this program will be released in the next few weeks.