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Atlantic provinces explore regional licensing for health-care providers

WATCH: The possibility of regional licensing for health-care professionals in Atlantic Canada is receiving a warm welcome by the health-care sector. As Alicia Draus reports, the current system is viewed as burdensome and costly.

The possibility of regional licensing for health-care professionals in Atlantic Canada is receiving a warm welcome by the health-care sector.

Dr. Tim Holland with Doctors Nova Scotia says the process is burdensome on doctors and can discourage some from moving around.

“There may be physicians who are in Moncton in New Brunswick who would love to move over to Amherst and help their emergency department when they’re in shortage,” said Holland.

“But the hurdles of having to go through the paperwork to get the license to pay all the dollars for the registration fees are just too much for those physicians, and as a result they don’t come over to help when the need is arising.”

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READ MORE: Atlantic Canada could lead effort to ease mobility for doctors, nurses between provinces

Under current regulations, doctors wanting to practice medicine in any province are required to hold a license.

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The fees for the license are governed by the college of physicians and surgeons for that specific province.

In Nova Scotia and PEI, a license costs $1,950. In Newfoundland and Labrador it costs $1,850. New Brunswick is the cheapest of the Atlantic Provinces with only a $600 fee.

Doctors can only practice medicine in the province for which they hold a license. The exception is if they do a locum, which is temporarily working somewhere else.

Locum fees also vary by province. In Nova Scotia, the fee is $250 a month for up to six months. In New Brunswick, the fee is $150 for three months. Prince Edward Island’s college charges $480 for 10 weeks while it will cost doctors $470 a month in Newfoundland and Labrador.

In addition to the set fees, doctors registering in a new province for the first time have additional requirements and fees.

WATCH: Global News coverage of Doctor shortages in Atlantic Canada 

The complicated and often costly process is the reason the Atlantic provinces are considering some form of regional licensing. The topic was discussed by the four premiers at a meeting in Charlottetown last week.

“One of the biggest complaints we’ve heard around that whole [locum] process is how difficult it is to be allowed to practice in the province,” said Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil.
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“We want to provide some consistency in the region.”

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Holland says that “Doctors Nova Scotia is definitely in support of regional licensing or even national licensing.”

Change to the current system would require collaboration from all four regional colleges of physicians and surgeons as they are the current regulators, but there is already some support.

READ MORE: ‘The suffering is getting worse’: N.S. doctor speaks out about ‘critical’ situation at hospitals

“The College is eager to explore any initiatives that reduce the regulatory burden on physicians and promote patient access to appropriate, competent care,” Dr. Gus Grant, CEO and Registrar of the College of Physicians of Nova Scotia, said in a statement.

Registrar of Newfoundland and Labrador’s college, Dr. Linda Inkpen, says work is already underway.

“The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Newfoundland and Labrador has been working with other Atlantic Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons to harmonize a number of College processes and procedures as well as working on common Atlantic Colleges’ approaches to certain licences for physicians,” she wrote in a statement.

The statement further reads there is also “work in progress through the Federation of Medical Regulatory Authorities  of Canada to streamline the granting of physician licences within Canada, where possible.”

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