CMA calls for pan-Canadian approach to health worker mobility

Calls Ontario's 'As of Right' rules 'a promising step' to improve access to care

CMA calls for pan-Canadian approach to health worker mobility

Could Ontario’s newly proposed “As of Right” rule be the key to addressing the shortage of health workers in different parts of the country?

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) welcomed the newly proposed rules in Ontario, saying that it’s “a promising step to improve access to care”.

However, the advocacy group also wants other provinces and territories to adopt similar rules, supported by the federal government, “recognizing that mobility of the health workforce amongst all provinces/territories is key to addressing the contemporary health care needs of Canadians,” said Alika Lafontaine, president, CMA.

“We are encouraged that the Atlantic provinces have previously announced their intention to improve inter-provincial mobility of health care workers and that the federal government has been working on ways to support the mobilization of internationally educated health professionals.”

If passed, the Ontario proposal will allow Canadian health care workers who are already registered or licensed in another Canadian jurisdiction to practice in Ontario immediately, without having to first register with one of Ontario’s health regulatory colleges.

“Our government is making health care more accessible for Ontarians, which means recruiting more health care professionals to bolster our health care system and making it easier for them to start working,” said Sylvia Jones, deputy premier and minister of health in the province.

“A highly skilled health care worker from British Columbia or Nova Scotia shouldn’t have to pause their career or face barriers to practice here in Ontario.”

Ontario’s announcement of the rules came after a report that there are “retention issues” in the health-care system, and “concerns about wage disparity via Bill 124” were a contributing factor, along with wage disparities.

Changes for physicians

The CMA has also been advocating for a pan-Canadian licensure model, said Lafontaine, wherein physicians can practise or train in any Canadian jurisdiction without having to acquire more than one licence or pay additional licensing fees.

Currently, doctors in Canada must secure individual medical licenses in each respective province or territory where they practise, and this is “a costly and time-consuming process that complicates access to care,” said Lafontaine.

In September, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) announced it is exempting from the current residency requirements physicians who work in a fee-for-service model with public health authorities.

Unions hit back

Recently, unions hit back at Ontario’s government for its plan to turn to community, for-profit surgical clinics to reduce surgical wait times in the province.

CUPE/OCHU, Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA), OPSEU/SEFPO, SEIU Healthcare and Unifor jointly said the government must instead invest in the public healthcare system, implement a substantive public hospital staffing retention program and fund its public hospitals at least at the rate of the Canadian hospital average to deal with population growth, ageing and inflationary pressures.

“Nurses and healthcare workers need more support and better funding in the public system, not a plan that will simply divert public dollars into the hands of private shareholders,” said Bernie Robinson, interim president, ONA.

Because of their current situation, many healthcare workers are ready to leave the profession entirely next year. Overall, 75 per cent of nurses and 69 per cent of doctors intend on leaving the industry in the next 12 months, according to a report.

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