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

Just Posted

Chilliwack’s Jordyn Huitema, a member of the Canadian national women’s soccer squad.
Another scoreless draw for Chilliwack’s Jordyn Huitema and Canadian national women’s soccer squad

Canada played Brazil to a 0-0 tie days after doing the same in a friendly against the Czech Republic

FVRD surveyed public opinion on cannabis production and processing in the electoral areas. Odour and distance from residential areas were the top concerns. (Black Press file)
Cannabis production and processing rules being drafted by Fraser Valley Regional District

Data from public opinion survey will be used to guide cannabis-related land use

Robert Nelson, 35, died after being stabbed at a homeless camp in Abbotsford on April 7 of this year.
Mom pleads for information about son’s killing at Abbotsford homeless camp

Robert Nelson, 35, described as ‘man who stood for justice, honour, respect’

Chilliwack firefighters watch as an O’Connor Towing operator removes a stolen Volkswagen station wagon from the Fraser River off Cannor Road in west Chilliwack on June 13, 2021. (William Snow photo)
PHOTOS: Stolen vehicle dumped in Fraser River in Chilliwack Sunday

Search and Rescue determined there was no one inside the car found upside down off Cannor Road

Police arrest the suspect in an attempted armed bank robbery on June 2 at the Scotiabank at Gladwin Road and South Fraser Way in Abbotsford. (Photo by Garry Amyot)
Abbotsford bank robbery suspect who was stopped by customers faces more charges

Neil Simpson now faces total of eight charges, up from the initial two

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, not pictured, during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Habs fall 4-1 to Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of NHL semifinal series

Match was Montreal’s first game outside of Canada in 2021

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

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

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. watching U.K.’s COVID struggles but don’t think province will see similar pitfalls

Studies show that one dose of vaccine is only 33 per cent effective in preventing B.1.617.2 spread

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during an appeal hearing in Calgary on Thursday, March 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Appeal Court rejects stay for Alberta couple facing third trial in son’s death

Pair accused in their earlier trials of not seeking medical attention for their son sooner

Most Read