More foreign-trained doctors than ever before are being certified to practise medicine in the province, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario says.
And more certificates — both independent practice certificates and post-graduate certificates for residency training — were issued to International Medical Graduates (IMGs) than to Ontario graduates for the 10th year, the CPSO stated in its 2013 report released Monday.
Several years ago, when the province was experiencing a severe doctor shortage, there was pressure to assess foreign-trained doctors to determine if they measured up. And for the past decade those graduating from medical school and or being licensed to start up their own practice have outnumbered their homegrown colleagues.
“The college worked with the Ministry of Health and other stakeholders on developing some solutions to the doctor shortage,” said CPSO spokeswoman Kathryn Clarke.
In 2013, the college, which is a regulatory body, issued 4,441 certificates of registration. The 1,793 certificates to IMGs is a record, compared to 1,646 from Ontario, according to the CPSO.
A further breakdown shows that 707 foreign-trained doctors have been issued a certificate to start up their own practices while 1,086 were issued post-graduate certificates allowing them to proceed to on the job training.
“I am pleased to see that the CPSO had another record-breaking year in 2013 in increasing the total number of licences given to physicians in Ontario. I know how vital it is for Ontario families to have access to primary care,” Health Minister Eric Hoskins said in a statement.
Hoskins said since 2003, Ontario has reversed the brain drain of doctors leaving the province, noting that close to 5,000 new doctors have been added in 11 years.
“To help rural and northern communities recruit doctors in their communities, we created the Northern Rural Recruitment and Retention Initiative which has recruited 391 new doctors to date. In addition we created the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, Ontario’s first new medical school in decades, which graduated over 300 students to date,” he said.
Hoskins said 93 per cent of Ontarians now have access to a family doctor.
Clarke explained that some IMGs come to Ontario fully qualified, while others require some additional training. The health ministry provided extra funding for residency training positions for IMGs.
“That has had a very positive affect,” she told the Star.
The doctor shortage and urban tales of foreign-trained doctor driving cabs resulted in the province reducing barriers where possible.
Clarke said the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, which set the training standards for all the specialties, has determined the training programs in U.S.A., Australia, Ireland, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Africa and Switzerland are equivalent and may be eligible right away to take the Canadian exams without having to do any additional training.
‘That is a streamlining of the process,” she said, noting the College of Family Physicians of Canada has done the same thing for the U.S.A, Australia, Ireland and the United Kingdom.
There are 38,503 licensed doctors in Ontario, according to the College of Physicians and Surgeons.