Advocates call on B.C. government to ‘streamline’ licensing process to help fill doctor shortage


It’s estimated more than 100,000 people living in the Capital Region do not have a family doctor.

“We need family medicine to be fixed,” said Dr. Matthew Ward, director of Eagle Creek Medical Clinic in View Royal.

“There’s a huge, huge demand for physicians here,” said Dr. George Zabakolas, a Victoria-based family doctor.

In the past week, both Eagle Creek Medical Clinic and Colwood Medical Clinic announced the doctor shortage is forcing them to close their walk-in clinics as of April 15.

Staff from one of those clinics told CHEK News that there are several more walk-in clinic closures expected to be announced in the days ahead.

Some advocates believe adjusting the medical licensing process for internationally-trained doctors could provide help for communities in crisis.

“Being someone that trained in the U.S. and practices now, I understand that process and it can be cumbersome and tedious and consuming,” said Dr. Ramneek Dosanjh, president of Doctors of BC.  “I’d like to see them continue into a more streamlined process.”

“It is so frustrating to watch people who are excellent physicians, many immigrants who had tons of experience, who are so capable, who’ve passed the exams — demonstrating they’ve met the Canadian standard, and yet they face these licensing blocks,” said Rosemary Pawliuk, president of the Society of Canadians Studying Medicine Abroad (SOCASMA)

In response, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC told CHEK News: “The College maintains robust standards and requirements for registration and licensure so that BC patients can receive the best possible care from their physician or surgeon.”

SOCASMA said issues with licensing stem from a bigger problem related to health-care spending.

“There is no physician shortage. There is a government-manufactured method to ensure our health care budget is kept under where the government wants it to be,” said Pawliuk.

In a statement, the Ministry of Health told CHEK News: “The number of International Medical Graduates (IMGs) positions at UBC has increased substantially from 18 (2010) to 58 (currently). The 58 positions include six key specialty positions in Psychiatry, Internal Medicine and Pediatrics with the remainder allocated to Family Medicine.”

“We are continuing to look at several options to meet the unprecedented demand on our health-care system, largely due to COVID-19 and will have more to announce in the near future.”

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Kevin CharachKevin Charach

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