November 25th, 2021

MPP addresses systemic barriers faced by internationally trained health professionals

QUEEN'S PARK— Doly Begum, the NDP critic for Citizenship, Foreign Credentials, and Immigration Services, and MPP for Scarborough Southwest, says internationally trained health care professionals in Ontario face systemic barriers to getting certified and finding work in their field.

Despite a critical shortage of health care workers all over Ontario, Doug Ford is refusing to take action to get thousands of nurses, doctors and other health care professionals credentialed to practice medicine in Ontario.

At a press conference Thursday morning, Begum addressed the critical need to recognize the credentials of internationally trained healthcare professionals in Ontario. Begum was joined by Dr. Makini McGuire-Brown, Chair of the Internationally Trained Physicians of Ontario; Dr. Luca Salvador, Director of the Internationally Trained Dentists Association of Canada; and Dr. Shafi Bhuiyan, Chair of the Internationally Trained Medical Doctors' Canada Network.

"Though Canada's immigration programs draw some of the most skilled and educated immigrants in the world — including highly skilled and trained health professionals whose expertise our province desperately needs, Ontario’s flawed and un-innovative certification process creates systemic barriers that leave many immigrants' skills and expertise untapped and unrealized.," Begum said.

"The pandemic has shown how critical health care workers are to Ontario's social and economic well-being, and the extent to which health care workers are in short supply. The Ford government's proposed legislation to reduce barriers for internationally trained professionals excludes health care workers. It fails to create practical pathways for skilled doctors, nurses, dentists, and other health professionals to get the training and credentials needed to work here in Ontario.

"Internationally trained health care professionals are left without support and hope in Ontario. There are few opportunities for them to gain Canadian experience, long waitlists for exams, and even longer processing times. ”

Immigrants across Canada earn 10 per cent less than those born in Canada, and only 38 per cent of immigrants in Canada that are university educated work in an occupation that requires a university degree.

"The government must work with internationally trained healthcare professionals and regulatory bodies to build ways for our province to realize this immense potential," Begum said. "We are not asking for exemptions or exceptions, we are asking for a path forward. Failure to do so is negatively impacting our province and our economy."


Dr. Makini McGuire-Brown, Chair of Internationally Trained Physicians of Ontario:

“The problem is not that internationally trained health care is unable to match Canadian standards, the problem is that the system is ineffective and does not work. Ontario’s health is suffering -- unequal access to primary care and long specialty care wait times -- while there are thousands of internationally trained family physicians and specialists who are unable to practice as doctors in Canada.

We have an obvious problem with an obvious solution. Organizations like Internationally Trained Physicians of Ontario are willing to collaborate and address this issue. We have submitted proposals and examples of programs that would help, to no avail.”

Dr. Shafi Bhuiyan, Chair, ITMD Canada Network:

“We need to think about the demand side and supply side -- our health system and population is growing. Long-term care needs help, health promotion needs help, primary healthcare needs to be fixed. Hundreds of internationally trained healthcare professionals like myself and everyone here need to be a critical piece of this system.

We are ready to contribute to our health care system and work with domestically trained physicians to make our system stronger. We can enrich diversity, and offer culturally appropriate care."

Dr. Luca Salvador, Director, Internationally Trained Dentists Association of Canada:

“Internationally trained dentists have to go through a difficult process here. It takes five years on average, and it is a long and expensive process. $50 to $100,000 of debt is normal. Our path leads to an excessively stressful burden. Mental health issues, depression, family issues, and so on, are the norm.

There will be a shortage of 5,000 dentists in Ontario by 2028, especially felt in rural areas. 30 per cent of currently licensed dentists and 50 per cent of newly licensed dentists in Ontario are internationally trained. Ontario is dependent on us. There is a public safety argument to this too, since lack of access to dental health care is harmful.”