Ontario has suspended a program that placed foreign-trained doctors into shortened residency placements so they could start practising sooner. ((CBC))

Ontario has suspended a program aimed at fast-tracking the certification of some foreign doctors, CBC News has learned.

The Practice Ready Assessment Program was set up in 2003 to help ease the doctor shortage.

According to the Ministry of Health, the program allowed highly experienced doctors, such as cardiologists and orthopedic surgeons, to go through a six-month assessment in a supervised clinical setting to determine their need for more training or confirm their readiness to go into practice.

Murray Urowitz, who assesses applicants for the program, said teaching hospitals have no space for these doctors this year.

"In order to train a resident, you have to have teachers, patients in the hospital, patients in clinics, et cetera, and we just don't feel it's fair to offer an assessment where there's absolutely no hope that you can get a position," he said.

Mitra Arjang, a landed immigrant and a general surgeon, trained in Iran. She performed plastic surgery in her native country and removed cancerous tumours.

"I enjoy whole process — diagnosing a patient, performing an operation. I do it and a patient is cured," she said.

Wrote all exams

Arjang had hoped to put her skills to use in Canada when she arrived in 2001. She took language training and wrote all the Canadian medical exams.

She applied for the Practice Ready Assessment Program and qualified — only to be told last fall the program had been suspended.

"I've wasted eight years of my life," she said.

Since the program began, about 75 international doctors are assessed for these special positions each year in Ontario.

Urowitz said teaching hospitals will decide in May whether to extend a lifeline to the PRA program. 

But for now, Arjang — at age 41 — will have to compete with new medical school graduates for regular resident positions.