Bill gives foreign MDs a fast track – – Bill gives foreign MDs a fast track
June 17, 2008. Kerry Gillespie

Foreign-trained doctors will be able to hang their shingle in Ontario faster – and in some cases immediately – under new provincial legislation.

If passed, it will broaden the responsibility of the regulatory colleges to ensure all Ontarians have access to a family doctor – something at least 400,000 people don’t have now.

“We must be relentless in pushing aside barriers that separate Ontarians from the caregivers they need,” Health Minister George Smitherman said when he introduced the legislation yesterday.

Changes in the proposed legislation include:

Allowing doctors who have trained and worked in countries where the medical education and health-care system is similar to Ontario’s to go directly to work, instead of forcing them to retrain.

Creating a new class of transitional licences so some doctors can quickly begin their practice, with limited supervision, and restricted licences to let highly specialized doctors work exclusively in that field.

Faster assessments to determine where internationally trained doctors fit best, and expanded access to programs for doctors needing help before they’re ready to work here.

“None of the changes we are proposing will result in shortcuts to practice of any kind. Rather they will improve access for Ontarians to doctors who want to practise medicine, who are qualified to practise medicine,” Smitherman said.

“We know we need them.”

More than 5,000 internationally trained doctors are now treating patients in Ontario, representing about a quarter of the physicians actively working in the province.

Right now, foreign-trained doctors – even those from countries like the United States and England, where medical training and health care is similar – are forced to go through a lengthy residency training in Ontario before being licensed.

Earlier this month, when the Liberals announced they would introduce this legislation, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario said it welcomed the government’s effort to support and assist internationally trained doctors.

The Ontario Medical Association also said at the time that it supported bringing more foreign-trained doctors into Ontario as long as they are properly trained and assessed.

But Progressive Conservative health critic Elizabeth Witmer said all the government is doing is foisting the problem of insufficient doctors onto the regulatory colleges.

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