New rules will streamline licensing process for incoming doctors, says Furey
N.L. government plans to pass legislation this fall
The Newfoundland and Labrador government will introduce legislation to make medical licensing more streamlined for physicians trained outside the province, said Premier Andrew Furey on Thursday.
Furey said the legislation will reduce red tape and long waits for medical licences from the Newfoundland and Labrador College of Physicians and Surgeons, with the goal of bringing more doctors to a province in desperate need of them.
"We want to kind of eliminate those barriers so that physicians who want to come here on a temporary basis, on a permanent basis, can have a more efficient way to have their licence recognized," he said.
According to numbers from the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association release earlier this year, about 125,000 people — or just under one in four people — across the province don't have a family doctor. More than one in five people registered with the provincial Medical Care Plan program in Eastern Health don't have a doctor, according to numbers released by the health authority.
Several factors are to blame for the staffing shortage, but CBC News has spoken to some medical professionals who take issue with the medical licensing process for out-of-province physicians.
Last month, CBC News reported that the Newfoundland and Labrador College of Physicians and Surgeons rejected an offer of free medical services for Fogo Island from Dr. Paul Hart, a Newfoundland-trained physician in the United States, because he didn't meet certain criteria.
At the time, Hart said the College of Physicians and Surgeons made the process overly complicated and didn't communicate clearly.
Furey said he faults the current rules, not the college's 15-member council, for the cumbersome medical licensing process.
"We want to give them the tools to do their job in a more efficient way," he said.
New rules to make licensing easier for 'country-equivalent' doctors: Furey
Furey said the new licensing rules will apply to physicians from other provinces in Canada and from some other countries with similar standards of care, like the United States.
"What we're looking at is country-equivalent," he said.
"That will be done in consultation with the College of Physicians and Surgeons because of course, there is the necessity to ensure there is a standard of care," he said.
He said the new rules won't apply to internationally trained physicians who don't meet Canadian standards; however, he said the province is also working to make it easier for those physicians to obtain the necessary training.
Progressive Conservative health critic Paul Dinn, who asked about the licensing process during question period of the new legislative session Thursday, called for the government to consider conditional licences.
"We need people in the system as soon as possible. We needed them yesterday," he said.
An Atlantic medical licence?
Furey said the new rules may give the province a competitive edge for attracting doctors.
The premier said he expects other provinces will introduce similar legislation, and he's had discussions with other premiers in Atlantic Canada about an eventual "Atlantic licence."
Furey said some aspects of medical licensing — like national standards — are outside the provincial government's control, but the government, in consultation with the College of Physicians and Surgeons, does dictate licensing of doctors who want to come to the province.
"We've been working with them to ensure that there's a more effective and efficient way for people to come to the province that doesn't currently exist," he said.
Furey said the government plans to introduce and pass the new legislation this fall, with more details set to come next week.
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