Doctors from France discuss in front of room where a COVID-19 patient from France is being treated at the University Hospital in Essen, Germany, Wednesday, April 1, 2020. (Marcel Kusch/dpa via AP)

Doctors from France discuss in front of room where a COVID-19 patient from France is being treated at the University Hospital in Essen, Germany, Wednesday, April 1, 2020. (Marcel Kusch/dpa via AP)

Doctors trained abroad want to join front lines of COVID-19 fight in Canada

B.C. is looking to allow internationally trained doctors to work under the supervision of attending physicians

Tetiana Psaras wants nothing more than to be on the front lines of Canada’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

She has a medical degree from a Ukrainian university and several years of work as a general surgeon in her home country, but says she can’t practise medicine in Canada.

“Being a physician is not a job, it’s a lifestyle,” she said in an interview from her home in Grand Manan, N.B. ”And words cannot express the loss I feel of losing my identity.”

That loss feels all that much harder as hospitals across the country are bracing for a surge in the number of COVID-19 cases, while facing a shortage of life-saving medical equipment.

“Not being able to use my experience in the Canadian health-care system is really heartbreaking,” said Psaras, who knows a thing or two about medical equipment shortages given her experience in Ukraine.

Psaras says there are many foreign-trained doctors who could treat COVID-19 patients when resources are stretched so thin that retired doctors and nurses are being called back to work.

The Canadian Resident Matching Service, or CaRMS, reports thousands of internationally trained doctors apply for positions as residents each year. There are a limited number of spots in residency programs for international medical graduates, meaning many who move to Canada with visions of launching or restarting their career must find other work.

In 2019, according to CaRMS, fewer than a quarter of international medical graduates who applied for residency positions were matched to them — 391 out of 1,725 applicants.

Only those who have already passed a series of exams are allowed to apply. That’s a goal Psaras is still working toward five years after moving to Canada to be with her husband.

In the meantime, she volunteers at the Canadian Red Cross and works in quality assurance at a medevac company, “to be as close as I can to patient care,” she said.

Dr. Ayesha Badiuzzaman, a Hamilton-based researcher who got her medical degree in Bahrain, and worked as a doctor in both Bahrain and Qatar, said her current situation is both disappointing and frustrating.

“As a doctor, you feel it’s your moral imperative to help in a health-care situation when something like this happens. And there’s thousands of us across Canada who want to help, who are trying to help,” Badiuzzaman said. ”We’re a huge untapped resource that’s just sitting here.”

She said governments and regulatory bodies should act quickly, before a wave of COVID-19 cases overwhelms the health-care system.

“Everybody is saying it’s going to get worse before it gets better,” she said. ”So we think the time to act or at least have a reserve of health-care workers is now, not later when you’re just scrambling to play catch up.”

READ MORE: ‘We will get through this’: B.C. sees new COVID-19 death, but 57% have recovered

Badiuzzaman and another internationally trained doctor have started a Facebook group for people in similar situations, hoping to make their presence known. It’s now more than 500 members strong.

Shafi Bhuiyan, who got his medical degree in Bangladesh but wasn’t approved to practise in Canada, said if internationally trained doctors can be put to work in this crisis, maybe Canadians will see their value going forward.

Bhuiyan has founded a program at Ryerson University’s Chang School of Continuing Education that prepares internationally trained doctors for non-licensed work in Canada’s health sector.

He said now is the time to bring all these medical professionals into the fold.

“I think of all of the sorts of experts we have in this country to support our community health and our health system,” he said.

But the association that represents the regional physicians’ regulatory bodies said that for now, calling international medical graduates to action isn’t on the table.

“The focus has been on licensing recently retired physicians and/or senior medical residents, and that appears to be sufficient for any surge capacity that might exist at the moment,” said Fleur-Ange Lefebvre, executive director and CEO of the Federation of Medical Regulatory Authorities of Canada.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia, however, is moving in a different direction.

On Wednesday, it announced it was looking to amend its bylaws to allow internationally trained doctors to work “under the direction and supervision of attending physicians” so long as they have at least two years of post-graduate training and the first part of the qualifying exams.

A spokeswoman for the college said the amendment had been in the works since last year, but the minister of health fast-tracked it due to the pandemic. It’s now in a mandatory 15-day review period.

Health Canada declined to comment, saying the issue is determined on a regional level, and spokespeople for health ministers in New Brunswick and Ontario did not respond to a request for comment.

Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A mallard duck swims through Salish Pond in Chilliwack on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
WEATHER: Snow, rain in forecast for Fraser Valley

Fraser Valley has been treated to more than a week of mostly sunny weather, but it’s about to end

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

sd
VIDEO: Mission drag racer scores 1st career win, sets world record, makes history in 2020

Justin Bond, founder and owner of JBS Equipment, hits milestones in break-out year

Cory Silbernagel makes his acceptance speech after receiving the Community Advocate award during the Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce 2020 Chilliwack Champion awards on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce)
Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce awards recognize businesses, individuals after unprecedented year

‘Positive acts’ honoured during Business Excellence Awards - Chilliwack Champions Edition

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near Chilliwack secondary

Third high-school related assault Rob Iezzi’s cameras have captured since beginning of 2021

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

Surrey Fire Service responded to a fire in the industrial area of 192nd street and 54th Avenue early Saturday morning (Jan. 23, 2021). (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
Surrey crews respond to fire in industrial area

Fire happened early Saturday morning

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

Economic Development and Official Languages Minister Melanie Joly responds to a question in the House of Commons Monday November 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal minister touts need for new B.C. economic development agency

Last December’s federal economic update promised a stimulus package of about $100 billion this year

FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2017, file photo, Larry King attends the 45th International Emmy Awards at the New York Hilton, in New York. Former CNN talk show host King has been hospitalized with COVID-19 for more than a week, the news channel reported Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. CNN reported the 87-year-old King contracted the coronavirus and was undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)
Larry King, broadcasting giant for half-century, dies at 87

King conducted an estimated 50,000 on-air interviews

BC Coroners Service is currently investigating a death at Canoe Cove Marina and Boatyard in North Saanich. (Black Press Media File)
Drowning death in North Saanich likely B.C.’s first in for 2021

Investigation into suspected drowning Monday night continues

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Kimberly Proctor, 18, was murdered in 2010. Her family has spent many of the years since pushing for a law in her honour, that they say would help to prevent similar tragedies. (Courtesy of Jo-Anne Landolt)
Proposed law honouring murdered B.C. teen at a standstill, lacks government support

Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions has concerns with involuntary detainment portion of act

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a daily briefing in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
31 cases of COVID-19 variants detected in Canada: Health officials

Dr. Theresa Tam made announces 13 more variant COVID-19 cases in Canada

Most Read