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Proposed B.C. change could put foreign-trained doctors to work during coronavirus pandemic

COVID-19: Fueling Canada’s front lines
WATCH: As more patients are admitted to hospital, Ontario and British Columbia's provincial governments are trying to fast-track special licenses that could allow foreign trained health care workers to join the fight against the pandemic.

The organization that regulates B.C.’s doctors is considering a move that could allow more foreign-trained physicians to work.

The proposed changes by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia would create a new registration class called “associate physician.”

READ MORE: Italy rushes 10K medical students into service during coronavirus outbreak, scrapping final exams

Associate physicians would have to practise under the supervision of a fully-certified doctor, would only be able to work in teams, and would not be licensed for independent practice.

USask med students start project to aid health care providers treating coronavirus patients
USask med students start project to aid health care providers treating coronavirus patients

The college says similar registration classes exist in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Nova Scotia.

In order to qualify, applicants would need to have a medical degree, at least two years of postgraduate training in a medical or surgical specialty, and have completed Licentiate of the Medical Council of Canada qualifying exams.

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Former NDP MLA Harry Lali has been among the voices calling for B.C.’s registration requirements for doctors eased as the COVID-19 pandemic strains health-care resources.

He said he welcomed the proposed changes, but that they don’t go far enough.

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“The three criteria that are listed by the college … specifically exclude medical residents, and I think that’s not fair,” Lali told CFJC.

“So, basically, we’re taking foreign-trained doctors that are from foreign counties over those who are Canadians.”

A group of Queen’s medical students organize to make masks for front line health care workers
A group of Queen’s medical students organize to make masks for front line health care workers

On Thursday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry appeared cool to the idea of changing the way the province certifies its doctors.

READ MORE: Provinces try to recruit retired doctors as coronavirus spreads in Canada

“A time of crisis is not necessarily the time we want to modify the requirements people need to have to ensure they can practise in a safe way in this province,” Dr. Henry said.

The college says the proposed changes were included in new draft bylaws drawn up in 2019, but that Minister of Health Adrian Dix had asked it to post them on March 31 with a sped-up timeline for consultation.

That consultation period will now close on April 15.

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