Saskatchewan is hoping a change in policy will lead to more foreign-trained physicians moving to the province.

The government announced Wednesday that it's removing a barrier that limited some international medical graduates from practising in Saskatchewan.

The change means family physician medical graduates from all countries will be assessed as long as they meet licensing criteria.   

Previously, only international medical graduates from six countries — the United States, Great Britain, Ireland, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia — were eligible.   

"I've heard many people say, you know if a physician trained in Germany, that speaks great English, why can't he practice here in Saskatchewan," Health Minister Don McMorris said Wednesday. "He couldn't before because he wasn't from those original six countries. So it opens up the pool that we can attract from."

 

'We have a higher reliance on internationally medically trained grads than any other province in Canada.'—Health Minister Don McMorris

The policy change could help rural Saskatchewan, which has been facing a doctor shortage.

Under the new process, international medical graduates who meet qualifications, including a national entrance exam, arrive in Saskatchewan for orientation and are then assessed.

If they pass, they'll go into communities fully licensed.

The assessment has operated as a pilot project since early last year.  

The province expects 90 doctors may be assessed in a year, up from about 55.   

McMorris said doctors can practise wherever they want, but added they are normally recruited to specific communities.

"This will not guarantee a physician in every community. That's not the point of the program. But the point of this program is to make sure that we have a bigger pool to accept from," he said. "We have a higher reliance on internationally medically trained grads than any other province in Canada."