Poilievre Suggests ‘Blue Seal’ Program to ‘Bring Home’ Canadian Doctors and Nurses, Improve Labour Mobility

by EditorT

Conservative Party leader Pierre Poilievre speaks to news media outside the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, September 13, 2022. (REUTERS/Patrick Doyle/File Photo)

By Marnie Cathcart

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has proposed a standardized “blue seal” testing program to quickly process licence approvals for qualified nurses and doctors with foreign credentials within 60 days.

“It boils my blood to sit in the waiting room with my daughter as she suffers with a migraine headache for six or seven hours with other screaming children, when we have 1000s of doctors that could be helping reduce those wait times for all of us, but are banned from doing so,” Poilievre said at a news conference outside the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario on March 19.

According to Poilievre, “government gatekeepers” are standing in the way with “massive delays and bureaucratic hurdles for highly qualified immigrants and Canadians trained abroad to actually get licensed to practise” health care.

He said his “blue seal” model would address the country’s ongoing shortage of health-care professionals. “If we had all the doctors that are here today in Canada, but trained abroad, working in our health-care system, we could reduce our doctor shortage by half,” he suggested.

According to the Conservative leader, the federal government has prevented some 19,000 doctors and 34,000 nurses from working in health care in Canada because they were trained in another country, “including advanced countries.” He said Canada is facing a shortage of about 40,000 doctors, with six million Canadians without a doctor.

The system proposed by Poilievre, would work with provinces to create a national, merit-based testing standard to license immigrant or foreign-trained Canadian doctors and nurses within 60 days of application. An exam would be required to prove competency, using a system similar to the “Red Seal” training program used in the trades, he said.

“If you are a doctor, you shouldn’t be driving a taxi, you should have the chance to care for kids who are in great need,” said Poilievre.

‘Common National Test’

A Conservative Party of Canada press release says that “Canada has thirteen different bureaucratic processes to get licensed to become a doctor, nurse or other professional” and that even being trained in a different province can be a barrier to being licensed because of “conflicting standards.”

“The goal is to make sure that anyone who has passed the common national test for their profession would get a ‘Blue Seal’ certificate allowing them to work in any province or territory” that chooses to participate.

Poilievre said in the press release that “hundreds of Canadians who went to medical school internationally at some of the world’s best universities are being turned away. Practising Canadian doctors wishing to be accredited in another province can face a lengthy application process, sometimes months long, and thousands of dollars in fees.”

As a way to reduce barriers to labour mobility across provinces, he proposed establishing a national competency body that will set standards similar to how many of the skilled trades have standards set by the Canadian Council of Directors of Apprenticeship.

“On our current path, Canada will be short nearly 44,000 physicians, including over 30,000 family doctors and general practitioners, before the end of the decade. Canada ranks 26th worldwide in the number of patients per doctor, at 2.8 doctors per 1,000 people,” said Poilievre in the press release.

Conservative health critic Dr. Stephen Ellis also spoke at the news conference.

According to Ellis, his home province of Nova Scotia has a wait time for specialist care that is the longest it has been in 40 years, at almost six months. He said there are 137,000 Nova Scotia residents without access to primary care.

“Canadians are dying in emergency rooms. This is something that cannot continue to happen,” he said.



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