QUEEN’S PARK -- The Ontario NDP is calling on Premier Doug Ford to bring back the practice-ready assessment program for qualified internationally trained doctors and nurses. Ford's government axed the program in 2018.
Practice-ready assessment offers the most qualified internationally-trained physicians a quicker route to being able to work in Ontario. In seven other Canadian provinces, the programs offer a clinical field assessment over a period of 12 weeks, then successful candidates complete a return of service in an underserved hospital or region. The Ontario NDP says the model -- already standardized across the country for doctors -- could be used for nurses as well in Ontario, creating more opportunities for hands-on assessment that dovetails with the current CNO Program.
“Ontario’s health staffing crisis means people are waiting in pain for surgery and treatment because there aren’t enough doctors and nurses to care for us all,” said Doly Begum, NDP deputy leader and critic for International Credentials. "Meanwhile, tens of thousands of highly trained internationally educated doctors and nurses are wading through Ontario's complex, expensive and years-long program to be licensed in Ontario."
Advocacy group Internationally Trained Physicians of Ontario recently told the Star its membership includes 1,200 internationally trained medical graduates who have been unable to clear the hurdles needed to practice. There are more than 10,000 internationally educated nurses in Ontario not yet allowed to work in the province.
“The Ford government never should have cancelled the practice-ready assessment program. That cut continues to hurt patients by making it so hard for even the most talented and highly educated internationally-trained doctors and nurses to work here,” said Begum. “Premier Doug Ford and Health Minister Sylvia Jones are letting people suffer in a health care crisis while solutions like bringing back the practice-ready assessment program has been an option the whole time.
“Private, for-profit health care isn’t the answer. Privatizing our health care means most Ontarians will wait even longer for care as remaining staff are poached from the public system to work in for-profit clinics."
Data from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario shows that only 739 international medical graduates became registered to practice in Ontario in 2020 -- a major slide from 2,074 in 2019.
In addition to bringing back practice-ready assessments, the NDP has proposed making education free for doctors and nurses, offering wage increases and incentives to current and future health care workers that are comparable to other provinces, and offering incentives for health professionals to choose to live and work in Northern Ontario.