Immigrants with nursing credentials will soon have a harder time getting licensed to work in Alberta.
Provincial funding for Mount Royal University’s Internationally Educated Nurses Assessment (IEN) program is being discontinued and the program will end, school officials said.
"The ministry has notified Mount Royal University that it will no longer commit ongoing funding to support the operation of the IEN Assessment Centres," said Mount Royal University president David Docherty in an email Tuesday.
"As a result, Mount Royal must phase out these assessment services and close the IEN offices in Calgary and Edmonton."
About 240 nurses from other countries are assessed and registered through the program each year.
The decision will eliminate the only program of its kind in the province, said Mary-Anne Robinson, executive director of the College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta.
"We know that we have an aging workforce and that we're going to have to be replacing many RNs who are retiring in the future, so we are going to need more nurses in Alberta and international applicants are an important part of that strategy," she said.
Alberta Health Minister Fred Horne said the decision not to offer the program was made by Mount Royal University.
In the recent provincial budget, Mount Royal University saw a 7.3 per cent cut to its overall funding.
The international nurse assessment program has received about $2.6 million annually since it began in 2007, according to AHS.
The nursing association is now working with Alberta Health Services officials to come up with an alternative to the program, Robinson said.
A spokesperson at the health minister’s office held out some hope for continued funding of the program, saying there is still an undetermined amount of money in the Health Workforce Action Plan budget for the initiative.
At this time, Mount Royal University says it's unsure of how the funding cuts will impact the school's Bridge to Canadian Nursing program, which is funded by Alberta Enterprise and Education, but shares office space with the IEN Assessment centres in Edmonton and Calgary.
School officials are also working to determine exactly how the IEN program will wind down and what the future will be for IEN assessment in Alberta.