20,000 foreign-trained nurses are not working in their chosen career field


“We need to fix the system so that we can not only make sure that they can practice and fulfill their dream,” says NDP leader Andrea Horwath

By Lincoln DePradine

The official New Democratic Party (NDP) has presented ideas for fixing the “broken’’ system that is preventing thousands of credentialed professionals – trained as doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers in the Caribbean and elsewhere – from finding employment in a timely manner in Ontario.

MPP Doly Begum

“Internationally educated, credentialed professionals in healthcare have come to Ontario to build a better life and to fulfill their hopes and dreams and to do that through practising in their professions,’’ said provincial Opposition Leader and NDP boss, Andrea Horwath.

“We need to fix the system,’’ she added, “so that we can not only make sure that they can practice and fulfill their dream, but also that they can provide the kinds of help and services in healthcare that Ontarians need and deserve. It would really be a win-win situation if we can succeed in making sure that they’re able to much more quickly, and much more consistently, practice in their fields.’’

It’s estimated that about 20,000 foreign-trained nurses, now living in Ontario, are not working in their chosen career field.

The data relating to doctors, not now working as physicians after immigrating to Canada, is “not well-collected. There is no proper data collection’’, said Dr Makini McGuire-Brown, chair of the board for Internationally Trained Physicians of Ontario.

However, McGuire-Brown estimates that the number of doctors impacted by current barriers to practicing in the province is between 5,000 and 13,000. “That’s from various sources just trying to compile different types of data,’’ she explained.

The barriers in the system, according to the NDP, has left some internationally trained professionals “without recognition of their credentials, experiences and training, making it difficult for them to succeed in Ontario. Many immigrants undergo deskilling as well as immense mental health and financial pressures as they navigate the system’’.

Dr Makini McGuire-Brown

The NDP’s solution to the problem, and to making it easier for doctors and nurses trained outside of Canada to work in their fields in the province, is the drafting of the “Fairness for Internationally Trained Workers in Ontario’’ bill, which it’s seeking to have passed into law in the Ontario legislature.

The drafting was spearheaded by NDP MPP Doly Begum after consultation with healthcare providers.

The bill, among other things, calls for the minister of labour, training and skills development to establish a “Foreign Credential Recognition Advisory Committee’’. The work of the committee would be to make recommendations to the minister regarding the employment of internationally trained workers.

Ontario is “the best province in the world’’ and passage of the bill would eliminate the “uphill battles’’ to gainful employment that confront “highly skilled and educated professionals’’ that arrive in Ontario with credentials recognized at the federal level by the Canadian government, said Begum, MPP for Scarborough Southwest and NDP critic for citizenship, foreign credentials and Immigration services.

Horwath and Begum were joined at the news conference by Dr McGuire-Brown and three other medical professionals. All, including doctors Sayeeda Yasmeen, Shafi Bhuiyan and Luca Salvador, expressed support for the Fairness for Internationally Trained Workers in Ontario bill.

Yasmeen, a cardiologist in Bangladesh before moving to Canada, was able to obtain residency training and a fellowship in the United States. She now commutes from her home in Fort Erie in Ontario to Buffalo, where she works as a surgical oncologist.

“I found that it was much easier, for me, to find hands-on training or experiences in the United States,’’ she said. “I really, really hope that this bill brings some revolutionary changes and help all the internationally trained doctors to serve Ontarians.’’

The removal of the obstacles to practicing in Ontario “is not partisan issue’’, said Bhuiyan.

“It is a critical issue for the health and welfare of our economy,’’ argued Bhuiyan, chair of a group known as the Internationally Trained Medical Doctors Network. “There are far too many international health professionals waiting; they are waiting far too long to provide quality healthcare services.’’

Salvador, president of Internationally Trained Dentists Association of Canada, described as expensive and “overly burdensome’’, the process of licensing for internationally trained dentists to be permitted to work in Ontario.

Dentists are need, especially in some rural provincial communities, where “the population-to-dentist ratio is a staggering 6,000-to-1 currently’’, he said.

Horwath noted that while thousands of internationally trained and credentialed professionals are unable to practice in Ontario, vacancies exist at hospitals, longterm care and community care centres, with not enough people to attend to patients.

“We’ve seen hospitals become backlogged with surgeries that can’t take place because we don’t have the nurses to be able to provide for that bedside care in the hospitals. We’ve watched as communities in our province, for many years now, have been desperate to recruit family doctors; to have nurse practitioners come to the communities to help provide healthcare for the residents in those communities. And, that’s been an ongoing problem for a very long time,’’ said Horwath.

“We can change the system so that, for example, nurses are able to get clinical experience and not just focus on their exams and get the experience that they need to be able to practise here. We know that doctors could be getting some help with job-matching that would then help with their requirements around local experience and help with their credentials.’’