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Province recruiting foreign doctors

Evidence suggests the shortage of family doctors is getting worse.
Nova Scotia’s Office of Immigration is heading back to Britain to reconnect with doctors they met during a jobs fair in London last fall.

Nova Scotia’s Office of Immigration is heading back to Britain to reconnect with doctors they met during a jobs fair in London last fall.

In their ongoing bid to recruit foreign doctors, provincial immigration staff will offer one-to-one meetings on March 16 and 17 with these health care professionals to discuss the new Physician Stream launched last month.

The province will also host a broader information session for all skilled workers from the British Isles who are interested in making Nova Scotia their new home.

“We are making it a priority to actively market our province to highly qualified doctors in the U.K. and Ireland who are considering immigrating to Canada. This includes the development of a new brand, which we will launch soon,” said Minister of Immigration Lena Metlege Diab in a release Tuesday.

But the promise of a new brand did not impress Pictou Centre MLA Pat Dunn, who said that new doctors needed help navigating a complex bureaucracy.

Any new doctor must deal not only with immigration authorities but also the Department of Health and Wellness and the College of Physicians and Surgeons before they can practise.

“The system is so difficult to navigate,” said Dunn.

The province says this new outreach for foreign doctors builds on the launch of the new immigration stream in February, which has seen three physicians approved in less than a month.

The Physician Stream helps attract more international doctors and specialists to the province by making the immigration process easier for internationally trained doctors who have already received approved job offers from the Nova Scotia Health Authority or the IWK Health Centre.

A family doctor who currently lives in Virginia was the first to be processed through the new stream and plans to start practising in Cape Breton this spring.

Two other family doctors from Ireland and England have also been approved and plan to start work in Halifax this spring.

But Nova Scotia faces a physician shortage, an ongoing problem for which the Liberal government has faced criticism from the opposition Tories and New Democrats.

According to Dunn, about 50 per cent of Nova Scotia’s 3,500 doctors are over 50 and younger replacements are sorely needed.

“We appreciate this support for physician recruitment,” said Dr. Lynne Harrigan, the NSHA’s vice-president of Medicine and Integrated Health, in a release Tuesday. “Our Provincial Recruitment Advisory Committee has been bringing more stakeholders to this work and helping us meet our aggressive targets to increase doctors in the province.”

The Office of Immigration and NSHA will continue to partner to recruit doctors from Britain and Ireland in 2018.

The Office of Immigration is returning to Britain in April for another physician recruitment mission.

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