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New assessment process to ease recruitment of foreign-trained physicians

A new assessment process will open Saskatchewan to opportunities to attract physicians from additional foreign countries.

A new assessment process will open Saskatchewan to opportunities to attract physicians from additional foreign countries.

"The most important thing is it will open it up to all countries from around the world," explained Don McMorris, Saskatchewan's health minister. "Right now we only accept international medical grads from seven different countries. With the new process, it will open up to new physicians from across the world."

This new Saskatchewan-based assessment process was designed to more effectively recruit foreign-trained physicians to the province.

"There's a number of things that we're doing with the new assessment," McMorris explained. "It's one more piece of our overall physician recruitment strategy - it's a very important piece."

Effective Jan. 1, 2011, the assessment will ensure physicians are screened with sufficient rigour to ensure patients receive safe, high quality care, while meeting the needs of communities and health regions in more efficiently recruiting International Medical Graduates (IMGs).

The new assessment process means a doctor will become fully-licenced before arriving in his or her destination community.

"Now when physicians get out to communities, they'll be fully licensed," McMorris explained. "Once they've passed the pre-screening and the assessment here in Saskatchewan, they can practice in whatever community and don't have to worry about being pulled out. I think it will improve things on a number of fronts."

"They won't get out there and then have to come back and challenge the CAPE, and if they're unsuccessful [with the CAPE], have to go back to school."

The recently introduced group practice process will also be thrown out the window, which is poised to work in a beneficial way for smaller rural communities which faced difficulty fulfilling the group practice process.

The foreign-trained physicians will undergo a full assessment prior to attaining a full licence, which is expected to take anywhere from a month to three months. Prior to this change, physicians had to acquire a temporary licence, which allowed them to practice in a group setting while studying for the CAPE.

One key change involves removing the barriers that previously existed based on IMGs' country of training. Once the new assessment has been evaluated, IMGs from all countries will be assessed as long as they meet the pre-screening criteria. Opening up the assessment to IMGs from around the world will bolster recruitment to the province by allowing an assessment of a much wider range of physicians.

A lot of the pre-screening can be done before a physician even arrives in Canada, streamlining the process somewhat.

'They would have to pass our national exam, the MCCEE (Medical Council of Canada's Evaluation Exam)," said McMorris. "They have to pass that and some other pre-screening criteria, and they can do that before they get here."

"Once they're here, there's a bit of an orientation of the Saskatchewan system and an assessment and evaluation that can take anywhere from a month to two-or-three months, depending how qualified the physician is," he continued. "What is number one priority still for our government is to ensure there is patient safety and the most competent doctors our working in Saskatchewan. The assessment needs to do that."

The orientation would be done in Regina or Saskatoon. Once that is completed, the IMG would be paired up with an assessor.

"The large majority [of assessors] will be in the urban centres, but we will be developing assessors in other communities," said McMorris. "Those assessors are being worked on right now. We don't have one in every community, and we won't."

When the system is fully implemented, the CAPE will no longer be a requirement for foreign doctors wishing to work in Canada.

"Between now and full implementation, if a doctor so wishes to challenge the CAPE, they can do that. But when we fully implement the new system, then the CAPE will no longer be relevant."

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