Nova Scotia is removing barriers to make it easier for doctors trained in the United States to work in the province.
The regulatory college overseeing physicians says they will no longer be required to write a certification exam by the Royal College to work in Nova Scotia.
The province is the first in Canada to make the move as part of efforts to help address a physician shortage and ailing health-care system.
The CEO of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia says, for example, an American doctor who has been practising for many years may not want to move to Nova Scotia if they have to pass a test first.
“Could you imagine wanting to pull up stakes, move to another country, only to be offered a provisional licensure and have it hang over your head, the requirement to pass an exam you challenged 10 or 15 years ago?” Dr. Gus Grant asks.
He says it’s a key step to make for Nova Scotians who are struggling to access health care.
“The most important thing to be stressed here,” he says, “this is a decision made in the public interest.”
He adds that the college isn’t ruling out expanding the measure to other regions.
But Grant cautions that some will be disappointed by the change, including the Royal College.
“I’m sure there will be some physicians in Nova Scotia who are Royal College-certified and appropriately proud of it,” Grant says. “And they will be unhappy.”
Nova Scotia Health’s director of physician recruitment says they’re thrilled about the move because it will help with recruitment.
“We’ve had a number of U.S. physicians that have started practice in Nova Scotia in the last few years so I think this momentum will help us,” says Katrina Philopoulos.
She’s hoping Nova Scotia remains a leader.
“I think it gives us a little bit of a competitive edge,” Philopoulos says. “I don’t want too much coverage on it right now.”
Grant is currently attending national meetings in Vancouver and expects other provinces will soon follow suit.
In a statement, the New Brunswick Medical Society’s president says they welcome any effort to recruit more doctors and calls Nova Scotia’s move another positive step.
“We were encouraged by the recent announcement of the Atlantic Physician Registry and continue to support the Canadian Medical Association’s pursuit of a pan-Canadian licensure model,” says Dr. Michèle Michaud. “Increasing physician mobility is an important factor in addressing health human resource issues throughout the country. Nova Scotia’s move to make American Board-certified physicians eligible for full licensure is another positive step in that direction.”
However, it’s up to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of New Brunswick to decide.
Late last month the Atlantic premiers announced a similar step to remove barriers for doctors who wish to practise throughout the four provinces.
They announced the creation of a regional doctor registry during a meeting of the Council of Atlantic Premiers in Prince Edward Island on Feb. 20.
Doctors who sign up to be on the register will essentially be fully licensed in all four provinces.
The Atlantic registry is expected to launch on May 1.