Every province and territory in Canada is struggling to find enough healthcare professionals, adding strain on already overburdened systems.
This is impacting access to effective and efficient healthcare, limiting labour mobility and increasing lost time and productivity across all sectors. As we struggle to train enough workers domestically, barriers to labour mobility in the healthcare sector are keeping skilled workers away. The fragmented and archaic foreign credential recognition processes across the country are leaving qualified newcomers working in areas outside of their expertise. We need a national strategy regarding accreditation barriers in the healthcare sector that addresses interprovincial and international qualifications.
The Peterborough and the Kawarthas Chamber of Commerce and Fredericton Chamber of Commerce have teamed up on a policy resolution submitted to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce (CCC) at the October convention, urging the federal government to take action on this issue. Policy resolutions are one way for Chambers to work together to create change. If approved by the CCC members, this resolution would become part of the CCC’s advocacy efforts for the next three years.
Systemic healthcare deficiencies across Canada are holding back our workforce and our economy.
The OurCare national survey showed an estimated 6.5 million Canadians are without a family doctor. In Ontario alone, the Ontario College of Family Physicians estimates 15 per cent of the population is without a family doctor and expects that to increase.
Workers who do not have access to primary healthcare through a family doctor are left to piece together solutions for their healthcare needs. The demands on hospitals and a lack of available workers have led to lengthy ER wait times, contributing to worse health outcomes, more time spent trying to access healthcare, and more lost time in the workforce.
A shortage of accredited workers is also holding back private sector healthcare providers from meeting the needs of Canadians and supplementing the public system.
In 2020, a Statistics Canada report noted skilled newcomers are under-used in the healthcare sector with 47 per cent of them either unemployed or underemployed in non-healthcare jobs needing only a high school education.
The Government of Canada already provides funding to governments and organizations through the Foreign Credential Recognition Program (FCRP) to support foreign credential recognition in Canada. These other organizations may include regulatory bodies, national associations and credential assessment agencies. Every year, Canada’s Foreign Credential Recognition Program invests roughly $27.1 million through agreements with provinces and territories, regulatory bodies and other stakeholders to help support the labour market integration of skilled newcomers.
While these measures may help, this piecemeal approach will also further exacerbate provincial and territorial variance as programs and projects are implemented on a case-by-case basis. These investments also demonstrate that the federal government accepts that it has a role to play in credential recognition, despite most credentialling bodies being provincial in nature.
The government of Canada should engage provinces and territories to create national credential recognition testing standards, as advocated by the Canadian Medical Association. The program could be modelled on the current Red Seal standard for trades, which has been used in Canada for more than 60 years. The Red Seal program sets common standards to assess the skills of tradespeople across Canada. Industry is heavily involved in developing the national standard for each trade. It is a partnership between the federal government and provinces and territories, which are responsible for apprenticeship training and trade certification in their jurisdictions.
A lack of cooperation between provinces and territories regarding healthcare accreditation is hindering workforce mobility as people are hesitant to take out-of-province jobs since they or their spouse may be ineligible to work in their area of expertise. Additionally, many are reluctant to move at all since they may not be able to get a family doctor if they relocate.
One place this workforce mobility issue is particularly challenging is within the Canadian Forces, which regularly transfers its workforce between provinces. While the member of the forces is able to work anywhere in Canada, their spouse might not be.
While healthcare is largely a provincial issue, it is clear we need our federal government to create a strategy to increase the mobility of healthcare workers between provinces and territories to make it easier to provide accreditation to foreign healthcare workers and allow them to use their skills anywhere in Canada.
Continuing with the status quo will increase lost time in the workforce, decrease workforce participation, hinder workforce mobility, and hold back both the public and private sectors from addressing healthcare needs in our country.
We are calling on the Government of Canada to:
1. Create a national strategy to assist provinces and territories to fast-track recognizing out-of-province and international healthcare credentials; and
2. Work with provinces and territories to develop a national proficiency exam that allows national labour mobility for healthcare workers new to Canada, currently working in a province, or newly graduated.