International Medical Graduates Reinforcing the Healthcare Frontlines

by Mina Karabit May 25, 2020 2 min read

In addition to the mask and hand sanitizer shortages, Ontario’s response to COVID-19 highlights the need for more frontline health care workers. Each regulated health profession’s college responded differently, and we have discussed some of those changes in other posts to keep you apprised.

Today, we focus on the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO), who set out to increase the number of available and licenced physicians out on the frontlines through certificates of registration that authorize supervised practice of short duration. The temporary licences authorize practice for 30 days.  

In the early 1990s, the Ontario government enacted regulation for temporary licences under the Medicine Act for situations like pandemics. These licences are not common, and the availability of these licences is triggered when there is a need for:

  1. providing assistance that would otherwise be unavailable on an urgent basis relating to a person’s medical problem that requires prompt remedy;
  2. providing interim-based medical services that would otherwise be unavailable because of lack of persons able to provide them; or
  3. providing a brief program of continuing medical education that is primarily for the benefit of members holding certificates authorizing independent or academic practice.

In March, the pandemic triggered the provisions, and the CPSO began accepting applications for temporary licences (“Supervised Short Duration”). Applicants for the supervised 30-day licence must have:

  1. graduated from an accredited or acceptable unaccredited medical school;
  2. secured an appointment working in a public hospital, psychiatric facility or crown agency; and  
  3. found a physician prepared to act as their supervisor

The Supervised Short Duration certificates are only permitted to last 30 days but can be renewed.  Applicants who qualify for these certificates may not qualify for other types of CPSO certification.

International Medical Graduates (IMGs) are an obvious and untapped reservoir of physicians ready to assist. IMGs are physicians who graduated from medical schools outside Canada or the United States. Data suggests there are almost 13,000 foreign-educated doctors who are not working in their fields.  Some of these physicians were experts in their home country.  Of particular relevance in the current environment, others have experience working in austere conditions and are all too familiar with providing patient care with limited resources.

Planning and responding to the pandemic is not over given the warnings from public health officials that we are likely to see a second (or third) wave.  In a pandemic situation where resources are scarce, and many patients are frontline workers themselves, IMGs can be enlisted to help with a situation we have not faced before.

Our blog is not a substitute for legal advice, tailored to your specific situation.  At Wise Health Law, we have extensive experience in guiding physicians, including IMGs, with registration matters. We would be pleased to assist you.


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