Overseas-trained doctors are currently being integrated into British Columbia’s healthcare system with some working under supervision in local hospitals, while others are being positioned as family doctors in urgent care centres. An initiative the Health Minister, Adrian Dix, is personally invested in.
The province, Dix informs, has employed several ‘associate physicians’ in acute care, further augmenting the project by listing an additional 120 positions. The end goal? To introduce approximately 400 internationally trained doctors into B.C.’s healthcare infrastructure.
“In team-based centres, under the watchful eyes of health authorities and the college, talent and extended training are optimized rather than wasted. These resources then make invaluable contributions to support our healthcare system,” said Dix, underscoring that candidates for such roles must possess relevant degrees and at least a year or two of practical training.
Though Dix and others are keen on the addition of foreign-trained professionals in the healthcare system, not everyone shares this enthusiasm. Family doctors, while pleased to welcome new colleagues, expressed reservations about limiting these physicians to serve exclusively in urgent care centres.
Dr. Jennifer Lush, a respected general practitioner, is one of the skeptics. She voiced concerns over the expected challenges in maintaining oversight and quality in the understaffed urgent care centres. Similarly, Dr. Vanessa Young, a veteran family doctor, suggested allowing these associate physicians to work in group practices—under the supervision and mentorship of seasoned doctors—on their journey to full licensure.
“We recognize this as a helpful initiative in our healthcare system,” she went on to say, “provided the execution is thoroughly thought out.”
Addressing the concerns, The College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC assures that work conditions elucidated in the employment contracts would ensure regular, direct interactions between the supervising and associate physicians.
On a different note, an entirely new concern on possible exploitation was brought forth. A few practitioners worry that overseas-trained doctors, already burdened with challenging exams and steep fees, might feel trapped into jobs that are less appealing. On a more positive stance, Dr. Josh Greggain, president of Doctors of BC, commended the opportunity, giving a chance for a foreign heart surgeon or urology specialist to utilize their skills professionally rather than resorting to menial jobs.
Dr. Greggain does, however, voice frustration over the difficulty faced in elevating these physicians to fully certified, meeting BC’s rigorous standards. He comments on the difficulty because the federal immigration policy has allowed a significant number of physicians into the country while there had been insufficient residency spots for full licensure.
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