A provincially-funded pilot program, aimed at helping foreign-trained doctors earn licences in Quebec, should become policy and be extended to all faculties of medicine in the province, said Dr. Yann DazÃ©, president of the FÃ©dÃ©ration des mÃ©decins rÃ©sidents du QuÃ©bec, a province-wide resident lobby group.
In response to committee recommendations made to the Ministry of Health, the province announced late last month it would be making annual investments of $2.4 million toward the new program. That investment, together with the efforts from the McGill University Health Centre, will help foreign-trained doctors get residencies 8212; a paid position and final step to obtaining a licence in Quebec 8212; at the province’s hospitals, the government and university said.
“Doctors thrown into a situation, without support, where they have to find a residency will in most cases fail,” DazÃ© said, pointing to the shortfalls of the current system.
The pilot project, which is only a trial at this stage, will provide a controlled environment where the doctors can hone their skills, putting chances on their side, DazÃ© said.
Dr. Sarkis Meterissian, the main McGill representative of the project, said one problem foreign-trained doctors face when looking to practise in Quebec is the long and complicated list of bureaucratic requirements they must meet before being able to practise here.
The time they spend getting through that red tape, Meterissian said, works forcefully against them. “If it’s more than four years since your last training or exposure to a patient, you tend not to be considered,” he said.
Each year in Quebec, open residency spots in the area of family medicine are going unfilled. The College des mÃ©decins du QuÃ©bec is responsible for assessing doctors’ credentials. It acknowledges the shortage of doctors in the province, and says not enough doctors are meeting the standards it has in place.
Meterissian said he expects the retraining provided by the pilot program will help doctors get exposure to patients and become accustomed to Canadian medical culture. The retraining period, slated to take place at St. Mary’s Hospital, is expected to last six months, but may be shorter or longer depending on the needs of the individual.
Though the details of the project have not yet been ironed out, the ultimate goal is to make foreign-trained doctors more competitive in their residency applications.
Meterissian said the success of the program will be measured in two ways: the first measure will assess the number of foreign-trained doctors who underwent the retraining and were subsequently able to find a residency position. The second measure would look at the number of doctors who successfully completed their residencies.
If a foreign-trained doctor wishes to practice in Quebec without going through a residency, the other option is to apply for a restrictive permit. With such a permit, the doctor can practice in only one location and can perform a narrower range of professional acts than a doctor with a regular permit.
According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, international medical graduates account for 22 per cent of doctors in Canada, while in Quebec they account for only 11 per cent.
“We have a doctor shortage in Quebec, and if we are going to improve that shortage, these doctors are going to help,” Meterissian said.