Recently the Nova Scotia Commission on Building Our New Economy released its final report, “Now or Never”: An Urgent Call to Action for Nova Scotians, or what is now referred to as the “Ivany Report”. The report proposes a national project to address current economic and population challenges. Although focused on Nova Scotia, the report is also a clarion call to all Canadians concerned about our economy and the safety of our cherished health care system.
The Ivany report makes a number of recommendations on immigration, including increasing the number of permanent residents that settle here each year and retaining more international student graduates.
The Ivany Report’s criticism of the federal government’s immigration policies are scathing, and support observations also made by John Philpott, CEO, CanAm Physician Recruiting Inc., Canada’s premiere physician recruiting firm.
Philpott agrees that while the federal government is talking about improving the efficiency of the immigration system, all evidence points in the opposite direction.
New Labour Market Opinion (LMO) policy by Employment & Social Development Canada (ESDC) to the temporary foreign worker program, and recent cuts to staff and offices at Citizenship and Immigration Canada, have resulted in significant delays in the processing of LMO applications, work permit applications and permanent residency applications. Philpott states that in this regard, the Ivany Report actually understates the reality. Feedback from CanAm’s public and private clients are rife with complaints of over-zealous and poorly trained ESDC officers denying LMO physician applications on apparent frivolous technicalities, thus, preventing the employment of physicians in communities facing dire physician shortages.
Private clinics and hospitals, particularly in rural communities, with severe physician shortages simply can’t entice enough Canadian trained physicians, because they prefer careers in the more clinically challenging major urban centres.
The new LMO policy restrictions will force communities across Canada who are in desperate need to face even longer delays filling thousands of physician vacancies. Sadly, and contrary to the Report, we will obviously miss the opportunity to retain these highly motivated professionals as permanent residents, and worthy new Canadian citizens.
Delays in the LMO process threaten all business operations in the private sector and the public sector. If a highly skilled worker – be it a Speech Pathologist, Nurse, Family Physician, or a cardiologist destined for a high need community – cannot get permission to enter Canada, that highly skilled worker will look elsewhere. We are in a global competition for this essential and highly skilled labour.
The recent LMO policy changes have subjected highly educated, affluent physicians to the same test as more vulnerable foreign workers such as, erotic dancers, labourers, kitchen workers and factory workers.
CanAm is known for its expertise in filling the impossible part-time (locum) and full-time, urgent physician vacancies. Typically, a standard locum request to CanAm would be to fill an urgent need for an Emergency Room physician, Anesthesiologist or General Surgeon in order keep critical Emergency Room and Operating Room services operating. Prior to these new LMO changes CanAm, with the collaboration of astute and compassionate ESDC staff, were able to get an LMO approved often in less than 48 hours. Our target pool of physician candidates were foreign trained physicians who were already approved for a work permit in other jurisdictions in Canada, often within the same province, who are motivated to become Canadian Permanent Residents. Sadly, now the new LMO policies enforced by over-zealous ESDC staff, unaware of the impact on patient care services of denying and/or delaying their decisions by several weeks,- – means those days are gone!
Philpott predicts dire consequences resulting from these new ill-timed, ill-planned, and ill-resourced LMO policies, specifically:
– Fewer ESDC staff now focusing on protecting educated, confident, resourceful and wealthy professions, means fewer staff are focusing on the more vulnerable less skilled foreign workers, now more exposed than before to exploitation.
– More Emergency room closures across the country.
– Hospital closures, especially in under-served areas.
– A return to ballooning health care costs as aging Canadians suffer the consequences of late diagnosis of normally treatable chronic disease, such as, diabetes, COPD, heart disease, stroke and cancer, to name a few.
Is the Minister stating that highly educated, often wealthy, and usually self-reliant physicians are being exploited? Clearly our elected representatives are out of touch with the truly vulnerable – Canadians are increasingly being denied much needed surgeries, emergency room services and early diagnosis of life threatening disease – Canada can do better!