Society For Canadians Studying Medicine Abroad Meeting To Discuss More Closing Doors

VANCOUVER – The Society for Canadians Studying Medicine Abroad will be meeting on December 15 to address the growing barriers that face international medical graduates when they attempt to return to Canada to work as resident physicians.

In March, 2015 Health Canada announced that there were approximately 4.6 million Canadians without a family doctor.  The Society for Canadians Studying Medicine Abroad (SOCASMA) has been told that we cannot train more doctors to meet our needs because of a shortage of funding and training manpower.

The cost of graduating one medical student costs the government about $400,000.  The cost of salary and education costs to train a resident physician is on average about $72,000.

In Canada, (Quebec excepted) international medical graduates, whether Canadian born or immigrant physicians, are prohibited from competing for residency physician positions against Canadian medical school graduates.  There are comparatively few positions for international medical graduates to work and train as resident physicians in Canada.  As a result, many Canadians who graduated from reputable international medical schools go to the USA to obtain their practical training which enables them to return to Canada to practice medicine. This training costs Canada nothing.

In order to train in the USA, a Canadian must get an endorsement called a Statement of Need from Health Canada which states that there is a need for him/her when (s)he finishes his/her training.  Despite recognizing that 4.6 million Canadians are without a family doctor, Health Canada has restricted the endorsements for family doctors to 295 in 2016.

The number of endorsements is arrived at by adding together what each province and territory advises is its estimated physician need.

Of the 295, British Columbia endorsed 280.  The remainder of 15 were endorsed by the rest of Canada.  Ontario refused to endorse any physicians.  Doctors of Ontario states that there are over 900,000 Ontario residents without a family doctor.  In explaining its failure to endorse training for any physicians in Canada, Ontario stated it had no money to hire more physicians.  If all the provinces had done what Ontario had done and endorsed 0 Statements of Need, the doors to American training would be closed.  Canada’s access to fully trained physicians would be significantly reduced.

Despite British Columbia endorsing 280 Statements of Needs for family physicians, B.C. can only expect to see a small fraction of these physicians.  Health Canada provides Statement of Needs endorsements on a first come first serve basis regardless of the province in which the applicant intends to practice.  Because most Canadians who study abroad are from Ontario, many of the 280 Statements of Needs requested by British Columbia will be issued to Ontario residents who intend to return to practice in Ontario.  Further, Health Canada estimates that at most 20% of Canadians who train in the U.S. return to work in Canada.

The Society for Canadians Studying Medicine Abroad (SOCASMA), an organization that advocates for access to residency training for all Canadians with competition being based on merit, opposes the government restricting Canadians’ access to American training.

SOCASMA will host a meeting on Tuesday, December 15, 2015 at 6:45 pm. at the Arbutus Club at 2001 Nanton Avenue in Vancouver.

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