The Dilemma of Physician Shortage and International Recruitment in Canada

Document Type: Policy Brief

Author

School of Population and Public Health, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

Abstract

The perception of physician shortage in Canada is widespread. Absolute shortages and relative discrepancies, both specialty-wise and in urban-rural distribution, have been a daunting policy challenge. International Medical Graduates (IMGs) have been at the core of mitigating this problem, especially as long as shortage of physicians in rural areas is concerned. Considering such recruitment as historical reality is naïve annotation, but when it is recommended per se, then the indication of interest overweighs the intent of ethically justified solution. Such a recommendation has not only invited policy debate and disagreement, but has also raised serious ethical concerns. Canadian healthcare policy-makers were put into a series of twisting puzzles—recruiting IMGs in mitigating physician shortage was questioned by lack of vision for Canada’s self-sufficiency. In-migration of IMGs was largely attributed to Canada’s point-based physician-friendly immigration system without much emphasizing on IMGs’ home countries’ unfavorable factors and ignoring their basic human rights and choice of livelihood. While policy-makers’ excellence in integrating the already-migrated IMGs into the Canadian healthcare is cautiously appraised, its logical consequence in passively drawing more IMGs is loudly criticised. Even the passive recruitment of IMGs raised the ethical concern of source countries’ (which are often developing countries with already-compromised healthcare system) vulnerability. The current paper offers critical insights juxtaposing all these seemingly conflicting ideas and interests within the scope of national and transnational instruments.

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