The federal government should fund temporary work programs that help foreign-trained doctors get their licences faster, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada says.
Andrew Padmos, the college's chief executive officer, said between 6,000 and 10,000 doctors can't practise in Canada because there aren't enough spots in residency programs.
"If they require residency, there are severe constraints," Dr. Padmos told the Commons standing committee on human resources. He said that's because there are only slightly more residency spots in Canada than there are medical school graduates each year. "It's insufficient to deal with several thousand foreign-trained grads," he said.
The committee is looking for ways to speed up the recognition of foreign qualifications in a bid to improve work opportunities for immigrants and make Canada more economically competitive.
Dr. Padmos said qualifying doctors can sometimes get around the residency backlog by working under the temporary supervision of a Canadian-trained physician – but that option has its own price tag.
"The federal government should fund the salary of the international graduate, plus something for the supervisor to make it possible," he said after the meeting.
He also recommended the creation of an arms-length observatory to study health and human resources and advise the provinces on where doctors and specialists are most needed.
Governments have long promised to help internationally trained professionals find work at their skill level. In 2009, the federal government announced workers in eight fields would not have to wait longer than a year to find out how the credentials they obtained abroad compare with Canadian standards. At the time, the government promised to add foreign-trained doctors to the list of professionals by the end of 2012.
Robert Young holds the Canada Research Chair in multilevel governance and his research includes immigration and settlement policies. He said that while the federal government's efforts to reduce wait times on qualifications are laudable, they often aren't the biggest barrier for professional immigrants – whether they are doctors or work in another field.
"In many cases, it's not the credentials that matter but getting the Canadian experience," Mr. Young said in a telephone interview.