Where are health policy changes to allow more doctors?

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With the provincial election approaching, we read that most parties are proposing that they’ll “improve” health services, especially access to family physicians. Thousands of Quebec families do not have a family doctor, period. Nurses, too, are needed. How?

Anybody living in Québec knows the long waits to see a doctor — and the yet longer lists to be assigned an MD in the first place. Could this alone be responsible for the apparent drain of high quality, skilled workers, from of Québec? There are many reasons for this shortage. Could CAQ’s language restrictions for health-care workers be making this worse, not to ignore more competitive salaries in neighbouring provinces, or the bureaucratic complications for obtaining any permit to work professionally in Québec?

One candidate in our riding suggests it would be efficient to examine the major barriers that restrict foreign-trained healthcare workers (even in veterinary care) from practice in Canada and in Québec, specifically.

In other areas of science, Canada flourishes and leads, often due to the contributions of immigrants. But in healthcare this process seems stuck. Québec needs a better way to validate immigrants’ qualifications and to ensure their training is quickly brought up to Canadian standards. There are many doctors who wish to work in Québec, but they face a long and difficult process of examination, one that is also forbiddingly expensive for most immigrants. Remember, these are well-trained people looking to Canada as a place to build their futures and lives. But most cannot pay even the exorbitant costs to apply for the privilege of sitting for qualification exams! Is this a smart way to attract the people we ourselves need?

With our severe shortage of doctors, why aren’t we using a different strategy to integrate foreign degree-holders into our system? Does it make sense that they’re waiting around, driving for Uber or working in fast-food joints, all the while there are so many patients suffering long wait times and waiting lists? Why can’t a doctor quickly complete a degree equivalency process — such as engineers can, across Canada — and then start giving service? Service to us!

Canada already depends upon the contributions of immigrants in most of areas of the economy, but when it comes to health, there seems a fear of degrees or experience from elsewhere. Is this a self-serving resistance to expanding numbers within the health profession’s associations?

There may be many reasons behind the health industry’s curtains — but aren’t people’s health and Quebeckers’ lives important enough to boldly make these changes? Which candidate and party is offering this wisdom, this courage, to change?