August 9, 2018 12:12 pm

Nova Scotia can handle loss of Saudi medical residents, health minister says

Randy Delorey, Nova Scotia Minister of Health and Wellness, responds to a reporter's questions as from left, Gaetan Barrette, Quebec Minister of Health and Social Services, John Haggie, Newfoundland and Labrador Minister of Health and Community Services, and Kelvin Goertzen, Manitoba Minister of Health, Seniors and Active Living listen in at a press conference during the Conferences of Provincial-Territorial Ministers of Health in Winnipeg, Thursday, June 28, 2018.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
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Nova Scotia says it is ready to “mitigate any impacts” if it loses more than 50 Saudi medical residents because of an international diplomatic row.

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The residencies, through Dalhousie University’s medical school, are funded by Saudi Arabia, which plans to pull thousands of students from Canada.

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Nova Scotia has a shortage of doctors, and Health Minister Randy Delorey said Thursday losing the residents would “be possibly linked to some inconveniences.”

But he said the residency positions are funded by the Saudis for Saudi students, and the province expects it could handle the loss.

In a statement, Doctors Nova Scotia concurred.

“While this news is unfortunate for these medical residents, there doesn’t seem to be a direct impact on our province’s ability to recruit and retain physicians,” it said.

“While the Saudi residents are here doing their training and/or fellowships, they do provide clinic care, but for the most part, they all leave Nova Scotia as soon as they have completed their training to practice medicine elsewhere (in other countries).”

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Delorey said Dalhousie, the province’s health authorities and the Health Department are assessing the impact.

“This is a developing situation,” he told reporters after a cabinet meeting. “Work is ongoing to complete that assessment, but while they provide services through the residency, the preliminary information I’m getting is it’s not critical impacts.”

“Efforts will be made to mitigate any impacts that do occur,” he said.

READ MORE: Canada delays deportation of Saudi Arabian man after letter from UN Human Rights Committee

On Sunday, Saudi Arabia suspended diplomatic ties with Canada and expelled the Canadian ambassador after Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and her department issued tweets criticizing the arrest of social activists and asking for their immediate release.

© 2018 The Canadian Press

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