New Brunswick

2 doctors recruited to N.B. may be stymied by COVID-19 travel restrictions

Two doctors set to arrive from the United Kingdom to fill hospital vacancies in New Brunswick are not sure if they can get into the country because of new COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Doctors have work permits, not included in travel exemption, MP helping them and 30 other people

Dr. Paul Atkinson tweeted a plea to the minister of immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to clarify if medical professionals on work permits can still be allowed into the country to fill gaps in the New Brunswick healthcare system. (Joe McDonald/CBC)

Two doctors set to arrive from the United Kingdom to fill hospital vacancies in New Brunswick are not sure if they can get into the country because of new COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Saint John doctor and Dalhousie University professor Dr. Paul Atkinson is urging the federal government on social media to clarify if these two doctors and their two children can enter Canada after the new travel restrictions came into place.

"We have worked hard to recruit both these excellent physicians who are specialists in emergency medicine and intensive care," he said in a series of tweets Tuesday.

"We believe that right now with the health crisis we really need them to begin to help us deal with the increased cases we are beginning to see."

The doctors were set to arrive in the country Wednesday and take up positions in the province on work permits, Atkinson said.

Saint John-Rothesay MP Wayne Long said he's been contacted by more than 30 New Brunswickers and families of New Brunswickers trying to figure out how to get home after the COVID-19 federal travel restrictions were announced Monday. (CBC)

New federal border restrictions announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Monday appear to disqualify the family from entry. Trudeau said the only people allowed to enter the country are Canadian citizens or permanent residents.

Unites States citizens were allowed in until a new announcement Wednesday that the U.S.-Canada border is closed to all non-essential travel.

Atkinson said people need clarification on if these doctors are barred alongside everyone else, because now more than ever healthcare workers are needed in the province.

"On a personal level they have two small kids have sold their house shipped all their furniture and are actively on their way to the airport now to travel to live in New Brunswick," he wrote.

Atkinson declined to comment further when contacted by CBC News.

Saint John-Rothesay MP Wayne Long said he's been working with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to find out what can be done to bring the doctors to New Brunswick, but he doesn't have the answers yet.

"Obviously, they're doctors, we could use their skill set and services here," Long said. "We're working with IRCC to try to clear a path to get them here."

He said the fact that it's a family with two doctors makes things more complicated, because of their two children and considerations around isolation if they are allowed to come.

"It's not quite as straightforward as just two doctors coming," he said.

'Uncharted territory'

Long said since the travel restrictions were announced, he has been advocating and seeking information for more than 30 people, most of whom are New Brunswickers wondering if they can get back into the country.

"We've had constituents stuck on cruise ships. We've had parents and constituents stuck on a cruise ship ship off of Chile. We've had constituents in New Zealand that want to get home," he said.

"Honestly we're besieged with Canadians and we want to get them back to Canada, in addition to bringing immigrant doctors into the province, which is obviously badly needed.

He said he's "on the right path" to get people in.

"It's uncharted territory for us … COVID-19 is a game-changer."

He said he hasn't heard about any other doctors in the same situation as this couple.

In an email statement, Horizon's vice-president of medical, academic and research affairs, Dr. Edouard Hendriks, said he can't comment on specific personnel issues, but said the health authority is continuing to actively recruit physicians "both domestically and internationally."

"Given the global spread of COVID-19, it is especially important to adhere to any travel restrictions imposed by the federal government," he said.

"However we sincerely hope to be able to pursue our recruitment efforts."

IRCC said it's working on providing CBC news with a response.

About the Author

Hadeel Ibrahim is a CBC reporter based in Saint John. She can be reached at hadeel.ibrahim@cbc.ca

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