|Posted by imdontario on February 28, 2015 at 5:55 PM|
Anupam Apu is good enough to be an immigrant but not a doctor.
He is one of more than 6,000 international medical graduates in Ontario dealing with the daily frustration of knowing their chances of becoming practising doctors are slim to none.
The 36-year Bangladesh native thought that when he ticked the box for general physician as a preferred career on his immigration application, he would have a chance to continue in his field.
But both Apu and his wife, Homayra Ferdous, also a medical graduate from Bangladesh, soon found the deck was stacked against them because of the limited number of international medical graduates certified annually for medical residency positions in Ontario.
Before leaving for Canada almost four years ago, Apu said he was in the early stages of training in neurosurgery.
“It is discouraging actually,” he said in an interview, outlining the roadblocks in a system that “definitely” looks down on medical graduates from his country, even though he says his medical degree is recognized in England.
Apu’s story resonates for “a lot of folks out there,” said Ontario fairness commissioner Jean Augustine.
She has been urging the Liberal government to consider a “practice ready assessment” system similar to the ones in Alberta and Newfoundland, where foreign-trained doctors get a provisional licence and work under supervision to determine their level of competence.
“We have made that recommendation to government . . . but I don’t think anybody is listening,” Augustine said.
Apu is frustrated as well. “If a person could be assessed in a workplace, then it would be much easier for that person to get into the system.”
Augustine’s dismay with the current system of certifying foreign-trained doctors follows an announcement earlier in the week in which the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario reported the highest number yet of international medical graduates being certified for full practice or residency.
But Augustine noted the college failed to mention the majority of the 200 provincially funded residency positions are going to Canadian students who trained abroad and returned to launch their careers, which she said was never the program’s intent.
Even so, Health Minister Eric Hoskins said: “We are working hard to train more Ontarians to be doctors and to attract doctors from across the country and around the world . . . The number of international medical graduate residency spots in Ontario has more than doubled, from 90 to 200.”
Apu, who graduated with a bachelor of medicine and surgery, said he and his wife made inquiries soon after arriving but quickly learned it would cost $4,000 or more to take four exams before being able to apply to the international medical graduate program. And even then there were no guarantees.
“They virtually told me not to pursue as a general surgeon because there were almost (no positions). So spending all that money and then with no guarantee I would get it didn’t sound nice to me,” Apu said. In the meantime he and his wife have decided to take exams to get into a U.S. residency program.
“It is a very level playing field (in the U.S.),” said Apu, who works as an assistant to a family physician in a practice where he says just about all the other doctors completed their residencies in other provinces.
Despite Ontario’s seemingly impervious system, Apu said he still feels there is a place for him and will write the eligibility exams if he can find the money.
“I do want to keep my channels open everywhere,” he said.
Foreign-trained doctors coming to Canada often end up with a “sense of betrayal,” said Tanya Chute Molina, a program adviser in the fairness commissioner’s office.
“The system for skilled immigration sends the message that doctors or other professionals are wanted and needed, and that there will be jobs available, so (applicants) don’t anticipate the challenges with licensing.”