Nfld. & Labrador

Ukrainian doctors in N.L. who fled the war say they are frustrated with province

A physician who fled the Russian invasion of Ukraine and arrived in Newfoundland last month says she's not the only doctor from her country frustrated by the lack of help from the provincial government.

Maryna Sikorska says there's a lack of communication from government

Maryna Sikorska, shown in an undated handout photo, is a physician from Ukraine who recently arrived in St. John's, N.L. after fleeing Russian attacks. Sikorska says she and other doctors from her country are frustrated with the lack of help and contact from the Newfoundland and Labrador government to get them working. (Maryna Sikorska/Handout/The Canadian Press)

A physician who fled the Russian invasion of Ukraine and arrived in Newfoundland last month says she's frustrated by a lack of communication from the provincial government — and she's not the only one.

Maryna Sikorska said she is eager to work as a general physician in St. John's. But she said that until Sunday night, her emails to the province asking for help went unanswered.

Sikorska said she knows four other physicians and one nurse from her country who have relocated to Newfoundland and feel equally stymied by a lack of communication from the government. By contrast, she points to Nova Scotia's Health Department, which is actively recruiting Ukrainian health-care professionals — including those in Newfoundland and Labrador.

"I don't want to go from Newfoundland, I like this place," she said. "I like these people and I want to help them, but I can't. And it's broken my heart, really."

Newfoundland and Labrador has worked hard to attract Ukrainians leaving their country amid attacks from the Russian army. The government established a satellite office in Warsaw, Poland, to help Ukrainians resettle in the province, and it chartered two flights from Poland to St. John's,  each carrying more than 150 Ukrainians.

Sikorska arrived on June 14 with her husband and three children. Before that, she had been a general practitioner for eight years in Kyiv, where she opened a medical centre. She also taught pediatrics at Ukraine's military medical academy, she said.

Sikorska said she understands she will have to retrain and write exams to become licensed in Newfoundland and Labrador. But there are ways the province might be able to help or speed up that process, she said, noting that even providing translated forms and certification information would help.

"They said that they need doctors, that the people don't have family doctors," she said of the provincial representatives she spoke to before she moved to St. John's.

Nova Scotia recruiting

Meanwhile, Nova Scotia's Health Department has contacted Ukrainian physicians in Newfoundland to offer perks like housing and daycare if they relocate to that province, Michael Holden, who helps Ukrainians settle in Newfoundland, said in an interview Monday.

Nova Scotia also launched an online portal in late June to help pair Ukrainian health-care workers with jobs. Khalehla Perrault, a Department of Health and Wellness spokeswoman, said in an email Monday that no one has yet been matched with a job through the system; however, "multiple health-care providers" are working with all those who applied.

Holden said he's part of a group chat that includes 10 Ukrainian doctors who are frustrated with the provincial government. Two local doctors who are also part of the group say they are ready to help Ukrainian physicians study for medical licensing exams, he said.

"We do not want frustrated Ukrainian doctors here in Newfoundland," Holden said. "We should be rolling out the red carpet for them."

Holden said doctors are desperately needed in the province — Newfoundland and Labrador's medical association released a poll last month showing that nearly one in four residents are without a family physician.

He created a widely shared social media post Sunday about a frustrated Ukrainian doctor, which prompted a response from Tom Osborne, the province's new health minister, who urged Ukrainian doctors to contact his office or the office of Premier Andrew Furey directly.

Holden said he then sent his list of doctors to Osborne, who began emailing each of them. Osborne also offered to set up a meeting with the physicians, he said. 

Next, Holden said he would like to see the province offer the same kinds of supports to these doctors that they can get in Nova Scotia, as they study for the difficult exams they must pass in order to practise in Newfoundland and Labrador.

"I want to see a level playing field between provinces," he said.

Osborne's office was unable to provide a response or an interview Monday.

Sikorska received an email from Osborne Sunday night, after forwarding his office an email she had sent to the premier's office on July 7. Osborne's email thanked her for her note and said his staff would be in contact with her soon.

"We'll see," she said.

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now