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B.C. MP sounds alarm after European surgeon forced into new career amid doctor shortage

MP Dalton slams government for roadblocks immigrant doctors and nurses face
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Former European surgeon Bill Jakobs and MP Marc Dalton. (Special to The News)

The Canadian government could end the shortage of doctors and nurses in the country by making it easier for health care practitioners who immigrate to get their qualifications here, Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge MP Marc Dalton said in Parliament recently.

Dalton said six million Canadians don’t have a family doctor, and many more are forced into long waits, “sometimes years,” for health care, because of staffing shortages.

“We don’t have enough doctors, we don’t have enough nurses. It doesn’t have to be this way,” he said.

In the House of Commons he referred to 20,000 immigrant doctors and 30,000 nurses who are not able to practise due to the “maze of regulations.”

“The human anatomy is the same across the world,” he noted.

Dalton told The News he raised the issue after meeting an abdominal surgeon from Ukraine who could not get his qualifications recognized in Canada, and is instead starting his own business.

The doctor he referred to is Maple Ridge resident Bill Jakobs. The former surgeon told The News it would take about six years for him to become a doctor in Canada, despite his schooling and past experience. The schooling he needs would have been costly, as well as time consuming, and as the primary breadwinner for his family, Jakobs was forced to move in another direction.

He had volunteered as a doctor with the UN, working with patients with AIDS and drug addiction. He has expertise in logistics and the global supply chain, and is now setting up a business that uses those skills.

Jakobs sees an ailing health care system in Canada. He now has experience as a patient needing health care, and being put on a waiting list.

“It can be hard to get to a doctor, or a specialist surgeon – it takes forever.”

READ ALSO: Pierre Poilievre pledges to honour Trudeau’s health-care funding offer to premiers

Jakobs’ father was a surgeon. His 16-year-old son is considering medicine, potentially following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, but Jakobs said it is a difficult decision, because of the time and expense to become a doctor, and lack of work-life balance for physicians.

“I heard a lot of discouragement, talking to professionals here,” he said.

Dalton said the Conservative opposition proposes a national blue seal testing centre, where professionals immigrating could get an examination, and they would know within 60 days whether or not they can work in Canada.

“It’s a big deal – it impacts everyone,” Dalton said. “Immigrant doctors and nurses could really fill a big gap.”

“The regulatory requirements and red tape is so big, so cumbersome, that it’s a tremendous challenge,” said Dalton. “Canadians lose out, because we have a doctor and nurse shortage, and it’s a felt need.”

The Doctors of BC, an association of physicians, residents and medical students, says it supports the proposal to bring in a new national standard for medical licensing, but it’s skeptical about the feasibility of the suggested strategy.

President Joshua Greggain says the organization is in full support of Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre’s recent call to improve and speed up healthcare professionals’ integration around Canada.

“National licensure and portability between provinces would be a really good thing to help the physician supply as well as the nurses,” Greggain said.

For it to happen, he says it would take national collaboration, and that would not happen quickly enough to solve the current shortages.

READ ALSO: Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge MP critical of drug decriminalization


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Neil Corbett

About the Author: Neil Corbett

I have been a journalist for more than 30 years, the past decade with the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News.
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