Toronto, ON (May 3, 2021) – While the Ontario government seeks additional health care workers from across Canada and other countries amid the third wave of the pandemic, thousands of internationally educated health professionals (IEHPs) currently living in Ontario are ready and waiting to contribute their skills.
“Ontario is home to thousands of skilled internationally educated nurses, physicians, and other health care professionals, many of whom are currently not employed or are underemployed in health care, despite being licensed to practice in the countries where they were trained,” says World Education Services’ (WES) Canadian Managing Director, Shamira Madhany.
There are at least 13,000 internationally trained physicians and more than 6,000 internationally trained nurses, as well as medical lab technicians, respiratory therapists, and other health professionals in the provincial database of internationally educated health professionals (IEHPs) seeking licensure in Ontario.
Only a few IEHPs have been able to apply their skills as part of the pandemic response. Nida Fatima is an internationally trained medical doctor and researcher from Pakistan with more than 4 years of experience in both the government and private sectors. Despite passing her medical licensing exams recently she has not been able to secure her medical license in Ontario. To maintain her recency of practice, Nida travels periodically back to Pakistan to work as an emergency room doctor. In Canada, she is working as program assistant at a public health unit for the COVID-19 vaccination program and as a facilitator for the COVID-19 mental health community leadership program with the Canada International Scientific Exchange Program and Toronto Public Health.
“We are living with the pandemic for more than a year now and Canada is in dire need of health care professionals,” says Fatima. “I believe that there is no better time to use the untapped pool of internationally trained medical doctors who already have the necessary skills and are ready to help in any capacity they can. If utilized properly, IEHPs can share the burden of those burned out and in need of support.”
Abhishek Saxena is an IEHP and a pandemic program manager at the Regent Park Community Health Centre. In addition to holding a health care degree from India, he has an MBA in hospital management and a master’s in public health from the European Union.
“In the midst of uncertainties during the COVID-19 pandemic when the health system is under tremendous stress, optimal utilization of the knowledge, skills, and expertise of internationally trained medical doctors (ITMDs) could be a key strategy to effectively address human resource challenges in Canada,” says Saxena.
Fatima and Saxena are just a few internationally trained doctors helping with vaccinations, but many more are available and ready to put their training and skills to use.
We urge the Ontario government to tap into these skills to support our health care system and boost the province’s fight against COVID-19.
For example, Peel Public Health recognizes the value of immigrant health professionals’ skills and their current recruitment includes internationally trained health professionals. This is a positive step that can be scaled up to meet the crisis today and into the future.
By applying IEHPs’ knowledge and expertise to public health priorities such as vaccine administration, contact tracing, vaccine education, and infection prevention and control, Ontario can ease the current strain on the health care system. Additionally, internationally educated professionals are linguistically and culturally diverse and can respond to the unique health care concerns of multicultural communities across the province.
The 2021 federal budget has allocated a total of $1 billion to help provinces and territories administer vaccines as quickly as supplies arrive. Millions of vaccine doses are scheduled to arrive in the second quarter of this year just as eligibility opens for all adults in Ontario and Quebec. IEHPs can be an important part of Canada’s vaccination campaign.
Canada’s immigrant serving sector and IEHP-led groups are ready to work with public health authorities, community agencies, and workplaces to help identify IEHPs who are ready, willing, and able to join a coordinated response to curb the further spread of COVID-19. Beyond the current crisis, policymakers must pursue measures that will better utilize the skills of Canada’s IEHPs to strengthen our health care system.
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World Education Services (WES) & Internationally Trained Physicians Access Coalition
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