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Ottawa announces $5.5M for health worker well-being and foreign medical grads

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Ottawa has announced nearly $2 million in new funding to speed up the application process for international medical graduates who want to work in Canada. The Thursday announcement also included an additional $3.5 million over five years to create a national plan for health workforce well-being.

"Addressing the needs of health care workers and the challenges they face is paramount in delivering better health outcomes for Canadians," Health Minister Mark Holland said in a news release. "These investments will help improve the well-being of dedicated health workers across Canada and ensure more internationally educated health professionals can put their skills and experience to work, benefitting Canadians from coast to coast to coast."

As part of the plan, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada will receive nearly $1.5 million for a project that allows international medical graduates to apply for provisional licences to provide care in Canada while their applications to practice in the country are being assessed.

Meant to recognize international experience, the project's processing times are expected to be significantly reduced from between six and 24 months to three or four months.

An additional $500,000 will go to a Medical Council of Canada project that is studying barriers and integration in the Canadian health-care workforce.

"Canada is home to many internationally trained physicians, some of whom are unable to find roles in our current health care structure," Medical Council of Canada executive director and CEO Dr. Maureen Topps said in the press release.

"Thanks to funding from the Government of Canada, the Medical Council of Canada looks forward to supporting new, timely and practical opportunities to help (internationally trained physicians) contribute their skills to patient care in Canada."

Thursday's announcement also included $3.5 million to the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada to promote health-care worker well-being and improve workforce retention amid reports of high levels of burnout.

"The Royal College is delighted to work with the Government of Canada and other partner organizations to contribute to system changes that alleviate the resource and wellness challenges that impact health care workers and their ability to provide care," Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada interim CEO Dr. Ian Bowmer said in the press release. "We are grateful for this opportunity as we work towards restoring joy in the care of patients and communities."

The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada is a non-profit regulatory authority that sets standards for medical education. The Medical Council of Canada is a national organization that takes part in the assessment and evaluation of medical graduates and future physicians.

"How many doctors and nurses that we know who are driving Ubers or working as a doctor's assistant or as a lab technician?" Ottawa Centre MP Yasir Naqvi said during a news conference on Thursday.

"That should not be acceptable to us, and we have to do everything in our capacity to create a system where the best and the brightest of the world who've chosen Canada to be their home are given the opportunity to serve our communities."

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