Nova Scotia

'It's definitely worth it': U.K. recruitment trips bringing doctors to N.S.

The province's immigration minister says annual trips to the United Kingdom to recruit doctors are paying off.

Immigration minister says province likely to continue attending recruitment fair in the future

Lena Metlege Diab, Nova Scotia's immigration minister, says the province's efforts to recruit doctors from the United Kingdom have been successful. (CBC)

Nova Scotia's immigration minister says a plan to target physicians in the United Kingdom is paying off for the province.

The physician recruitment team has returned after taking a third trip to the British Medical Journal Careers Fair. It marked the second time the team could boast about a fast-track immigration process that was created by Lena Metlege Diab's department.

"I would say it's definitely worth it," Metlege Diab said of the investment. "They can go anywhere in the world, and so our presence in those markets is essential."

The United Kingdom is a key recruiting ground for the province because the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia largely recognizes the credentials of the physicians.

With Brexit causing economic and political uncertainty, Nova Scotia is advertising a convenient destination for those who want easy access to visit home.

Several countries are now facing physician shortages, putting the pressure on recruiters from around the world to make an impression on 1,700 doctors attending the BMJ Careers Fair. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

The doctor shortage has hit several countries. Recruiters from around the world descend on London for the careers fair every year.

Nova Scotia sets up a large booth at the event. Recruiters then host one-on-one meetings with doctors in several U.K. cities to try to get a commitment.

So far, the recruitment team has met about 500 physicians and residents through the U.K. strategy.

Of those, 23 physicians have been recruited and processed through the new immigration system.

"At the moment there's every reason to have those trips continue," said Metlege Diab.

Another 22 physicians have used the immigration program after finding out about it through other means.

The Nova Scotia flag can be seen hanging from the booth in the middle of the job fair, which included more than 80 exhibitors from around the world. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

"I'm proud of that because it was a totally new initiative that we did as a response to the priority that this government has set for recruiting doctors," Metlege Diab said.

Two months ago, the province started offering a second option for physicians, which Metlege Diab said is through the federal express entry program.

It has slightly different criteria, and can be processed digitally instead of through paperwork. She said the extra option will only help their cause.

More than 50,000 still looking for family doctor

While recruits are arriving, the number of people looking for a family doctor has been hovering around the same mark for the past few months. It sits at 51,014.

As of the end of September, there were 80 vacancies for family doctors and another 99 for specialists.

Metlege Diab knows people want instant results, but said this is the result of partnerships they've developed with the health authority and the college.

"It can't get any faster. We work extremely hard."

Some of the doctors who have made the journey say it was fast, but bumpy. They've started a private Facebook group, counselling their peers back home on what they need to know to make the move to Nova Scotia.

"We're always making changes, we're always making tweaks," the minister said in response to those concerns.

She said she expects Nova Scotia to maintain its presence at the recruitment fair in the years to come.