Nova Scotia looking to fast-track licensing process for Ukrainian health workers

Nova Scotia looking to fast-track licensing process for Ukrainian health workers
Ukrainian newcomers Olena Kudenko and Dr. Alix Chamalat shown with their son, Andrii (centre), and Nova Scotia Health Minister Michelle Thompson (left), and Gail Tomblin Murphy, chief nurse executive of Nova Scotia Health (right), in Halifax on Aug. 25, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Keith Doucette

Nova Scotia is mounting an effort to make the often daunting process of getting medically qualified less strenuous for Ukrainian health workers who fled the war with Russia and are looking to work in the province’s health-care system.

Health Minister Michelle Thompson said Thursday work is being done to streamline the accreditation process for just over 230 Ukrainian nationals who are already in the province or who are interested in coming. The health professionals have been identified through a provincial website that records their qualifications and work experience, Thompson said.

“About 60 per cent of those candidates are physicians, 10 per cent are nurses and 30 per cent are from other health professions,” she told reporters. “All candidates are in various stages of the assessment process.”

The province has already hired three Ukrainian nationals as community navigators — liaisons between Ukrainian newcomers and the health system. It plans to hire seven more navigators to assist with translation and with other matters such as helping newcomers obtain the proper licensing to work in Nova Scotia’s health network.

One of the navigators is Olena Kudenko, a lawyer from the Black Sea port city of Odesa, who arrived in Nova Scotia in June with her husband, Alix Chamalat — a physician — and their family.

“When the first rocket was over our head, we took a car and our children and ran away,” said Kedenko, adding that her family escaped through Moldova and stayed in Bulgaria and then Germany before coming to Canada and settling in Truro, N.S., where they intend to stay permanently.

Thompson said not all applicants will immediately meet the qualifications required to work in their chosen field, adding that those applicants will be offered alternative roles within the health network.

In Chamalat’s case, his new job will involve working as a health-support aide at the Colchester East Hants Health Centre until he meets Canadian licensing requirements, a process he anticipates will take up to a year. His position involves working under the supervision of a licensed doctor or other health professional.

“I am happy to start at this point,” said Chamalat.

Earlier this week, the provincial government announced $340,000 for the Nova Scotia College of Nursing to accelerate licensing for internationally educated nurses.

Sue Smith, CEO and registrar of the college, said work at streamlining the process had been underway prior to the arrival of the Ukrainians because of the health system’s growing need for more health professionals from outside of the province.

Smith said the college is simplifying requirements around proficiency in English, credit for previous accreditation in Canada and earlier access for writing the national nursing examination.

“We welcome this and truly have not viewed it as extraordinary or negative,” Smith said.

Meanwhile, Thompson said similar work is underway with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia in order to review the qualifications of doctors trained outside of Canada.

“Anything is on the table,” she said. “We know that there’s a number of people that want to come and work here and we want them here.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 25, 2022.

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