It’s no secret that rural communities in northern Ontario are struggling to find healthcare workers.
Thunder Bay–Rainy River MP Marcus Powlowski says he is planning on making recommendations to the federal government to “immediately address the doctor shortages plaguing rural northwestern Ontario and other parts of the country.”
Powlowski, who is a former emergency room doctor, says he believes now is the time for the federal government to work with the provinces to increase the number of doctors in rural areas.
MP Powlowski recently returned from a trip to Atikokan, Fort Frances, Rainy River, and Kenora. A press release said he spoke with various doctors about the healthcare shortages, particularly doctors in small towns and rural areas.
Following meetings with doctors in the area, MP Powlowski says there are things the federal and provincial governments, along with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) can do to address the shortage. He outlined the following ideas in a press release:
1. Have the federal government establish a national licensure for doctors.
“Licensing doctors in only one province at a time makes it much more difficult for doctors in one province to fill gaps in another.”
2. Have the province of Ontario make Practice-Ready Assessments (PRAs) available for international medical graduates.
“PRAs allow international medical graduates to practise for twelve weeks as a doctor under the supervision of a Canadian doctor. After the twelve weeks, physicians are eligible for licensure. While most provinces allow PRAs and use them to address doctor shortages in rural areas, Ontario has not adopted this system.”
3. Have the CPSO increase the number of residency positions, especially family-practice residency for foreign graduates, including in rural areas.
“The more students that can obtain a residency, the more doctors we will produce. These residencies may require graduates to then practise in rural areas.”
4. Have the federal and provincial governments work together to allow doctors in certain countries practise in Canada without further accreditation or schooling.
“For example, Australia currently allows Canadian doctors to practise there. There are many countries with medical schools that are on-par with Canada’s schools. To require that doctors from these countries take the same courses again in Canada is a major deterrent for attracting doctors in Canada.”
5. Increase the number of people studying to become nurse practitioners or physician assistants.
MP Powlowski says he is planning to meet with several national healthcare groups including the CPSO and doctor’s organizations to finalize his recommendations. He plans to formally share his plan with the minister of health in early fall.
He is also planning to meet with nursing groups regarding nursing shortages where he can “also make recommendations as to how to address the nursing shortage as well.”
“MP Powlowski is aware of the need to maintain professional standards. However, we must also acknowledge there is nothing safe in closing emergency rooms, or not being able to get in to see a family doctor,” the release stated. “It is therefore imperative we explore some of these options which Powlowski believes can address the workforce shortage but at the same time, maintain professional standards.”