Media Release: Open Letter to Federal Party Leaders

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Toronto / 13 September 2021

Over 200 Sign Open Letter To Federal Party Leaders:
Let Internationally Educated Health Professionals Serve Canadians

Today over 50 civil society organizations and groups and over 200 individuals sent an open letter calling on federal party leaders to make an election commitment to address licensure  barriers faced by Internationally Educated Health Professionals (IEHPs).

The signatories are calling for party leaders to make a commitment to accelerating the integration of this talent pool into the healthcare system. 

The open letter recommends that federal party leaders commit to a national strategy that will effectively and equitably integrate the thousands of internationally educated health professionals into the healthcare system swiftly, while meeting or exceeding quality of care standards. 

The letter provides detailed recommendations that parties could adopt as part of their election platform healthcare commitments.   The key areas include proposed remedies to immigration pathways, a process to challenge licensure barriers, and improve inclusive and commensurate employment outcomes for IEHPs while also diversifying quality patient care services. 

There is evidence the public wants to see changes for IEHPs. A survey found 83% of Canadians agree that we should do more to ensure doctors trained internationally have a fair and reasonable opportunity to practice medicine in Canada. 

The Open Letter was sent by email to the leaders of the Bloc Quebecois, the Conservative Party, the Green Party, the Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party. The full text of the letter and list of signatories can be found at https://ocasi.org/open-letter-federal-party-leaders.

Quotes:

"The pandemic not only highlighted the inequities in our system but the underutilization of Internationally Trained Physicians (ITPs) in Canada. We must address the biases and barriers within our systems. For those who are deemed eligible for Practice Readiness Assessment routes or residency positions, positions are limited. It is highly disappointing to see a large number of ITPs who have made Canada their home, passed the necessary licensing exams and are making $19/h. Surely, we can do better than this as a nation. There are many ways ITPs can contribute to our system and we look forward to being part of the dialogue/solution" - Deidre Lake, Executive Director, Alberta International Medical Graduate Association. 

Emily Kovacs, Executive Director of Niagara Folk Arts Multicultural Centre said, “The skills and experience Internationally Educated Health Professionals (IEHPs) bring to Canada are extremely underutilized. This has weakened our pandemic response capacity, and perpetuates race, gender, and human rights inequities.” 

Joanna Walters, a member of the Internationally Trained Physicians Access Coalition said, "I trained in Jamaica and have seven years’ experience as a general practitioner. Having to travel back and forth between Canada and Jamaica to maintain my clinical practice has taken a toll on my quality of life. It is heartbreaking having to sit on the sidelines during the pandemic, when I know I possess the clinical knowledge and skills to help. So many people need help-- both patients and frontline workers are suffering from exhaustion/burnout. I have to deal with being a doctor who is unable to help people when help is needed the most! " 

"The question is: Why are internationally trained medical doctors still sidelined? The action is for the government to bring Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) principles into the Canadian health care system” said Dr. Shafi Bhuiyan, Chair of ITMDs Canada Network [iCaN] and former Board Chair, Canadian Coalition for Global Health Research.

Volf Gaby, a medical specialist in his home country, urges stakeholders to sit down together to find a solution that proves to be beneficial to the Canadian public, licensed health professionals in Canada and the government. Indeed, the need to lift the blockade on the integration and use of overseas healthcare professionals here in Canada is more than evident when one looks at the functioning of medical emergencies, wait times for medical and surgical procedures and so many other problems facing the health network even before the onset of the current pandemic.

“The fact that I cannot practice medicine in Canada is like losing my identity” - Princila Mukoko, MBChB, PgDip, MedicAlert Foundation Canada.

Amina Malik, Clinical Nurse Educator, North York General Hospital said, “After significant financial and emotional costs, I achieved my goal of entering the nursing profession in Canada. I worked as an Associate Director at an internationally accredited university hospital in Pakistan, however had to start all over again. Many of my internationally educated colleagues (IENs) are struggling to survive or have even given up nursing. At times, I felt so sad, as I was a professional nurse ready and willing to contribute but was unable to, due to the lengthy licensure process. I desperately wanted to help make a difference. Therefore, I joined the Ismaili Nurses Alliance to support all fellow Ismaili Muslim Nurses, whatever their situation”

Shamira Madhany, Managing Director, Canada, and Deputy Executive Director, World Education Services (WES): “Internationally educated health professionals play an important role in Canada’s health systems--now, and in the future. We need programs and policies in place that ensure they can contribute their much needed skills. We can no longer afford to overlook this untapped human resource.”

Quick Facts and Background

For more information contact:

Amy Casipullai
OCASI – Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants
416-524-4950 (cell)
acasipullai@ocasi.org