The Minister of Health of Ontario is giving regulatory colleges of nursing and physicians two weeks to develop plans for faster registration of internationally educated professionals.
Sylvia Jones sent directives today to the Ontario College of Nursing and the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons directing them to make every effort to enroll these nurses and physicians “as soon as possible.”
The minister also directed the medical college to provide support to internationally trained nurses, such as bringing their skills up to Ontario standards so they can practice “on time”.
Jones requested reports from the colleges in two weeks on how they would do it.
Hospitals in the province are overwhelmed, with some emergency rooms forced to close for hours or days due to lack of staff.
Nursing groups, hospital leaders, other healthcare professionals and activists say burnout after more than two years on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19 and lack of adequate compensation has led people to leave the profession en masse.
Criticism of Bill 124 remains
Katherine Hoy, president of the Ontario Nursing Association, said the system would benefit from more internationally trained nurses, but she wants to see the college’s report before assessing whether this particular directive will help.
In addition, she said the news of the directive does not in itself mean that Prime Minister Doug Ford is doing everything in his power to address the personnel crisis, as he promised at a press conference on Wednesday.
“It still goes hand in hand with Bill 124,” Hoy said, referring to a law that limits public sector wage increases to one percent for three years.
“You are going to bring in all these internationally trained nurses who, yes, will help because they are nurses, but in the end who will support, guide and mentor them, because there are not enough nurses to do the work we need in Ontario? So we need to bring the retired nurses back, and the only way to get that is if you repeal Bill 124.
On Wednesday, Ford said he would not repeal the wage cap law or increase the $5,000 deduction for nurses. He also noted that the provisions of the legislation are expiring and will not apply to the next contract negotiations for nurses.
The Ontario Equity Commissioner’s 2020 report found that 14,633 internationally trained nurses were actively licensed through the Ontario College of Nursing. In the same year, just over 2,000 foreign applicants became full members.
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The Registered Nurses Association reports that the number of internationally trained applicants has increased over the past decade, with an estimated waiting list of around 26,000.
The College of Nursing recently took steps to speed up the process, including changes to language proficiency requirements and a partnership with the province to create more supervised practice opportunities, a spokesman said.
This year saw a record number of registered nurses, including more foreign nurses than in previous years, with 4,728 nurses registered by early August. The college also says it is looking for ways to streamline the process.
To practice in Ontario, internationally trained nurses must show they have recent experience, pass exams, and demonstrate proficiency in English or French.