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Ottawa calls for project proposals that help internationally trained health workers

HALIFAX — A program announced Monday will fund projects to remove barriers preventing qualified new Canadians from working in health care, the federal immigration minister said.
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Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Sean Fraser makes an announcement about international students and Canada’s labour shortage at Happy Goat Coffee in Ottawa on Friday, October 7, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle

HALIFAX — A program announced Monday will fund projects to remove barriers preventing qualified new Canadians from working in health care, the federal immigration minister said.

Sean Fraser said Ottawa’s call for proposals is aimed at tackling major health labour shortages and the underemployment of internationally trained health professionals. The government will put $90 million toward projects that streamline medical credential recognitions or that provide Canadian work experience to internationally trained health workers.

“It's no secret that newcomers have the skills to fill the vacancies that we need, but they need our help to enter the workforce as soon as possible,” said Fraser, who took part virtually in a news conference held at a Charlottetown hospital.

The minister said immigrants make up about a quarter of all health-care professionals in Canada, but 2020 reporting from Statistics Canada shows that about 47 per cent of skilled immigrants with education in a health field are unemployed or underemployed.

Fraser said proposals for this funding are expected to come from provincial and municipal governments, non-profit organizations, unions, hospitals and other organizations.

“We’ve tried to run the gamut .… We’ll use the call for proposals process to funnel out the very best applications to ensure that we’re having the best possible impact with this funding,” he said. Successful projects can receive between $500,000 and $10 million for the work. 

The minister said there’s currently no timeline for when the successful projects must be completed. There’s also no set target for the number of new health professionals the funding is expected to add to Canada’s workforce.

“I don't expect this is going to alleviate the health-care worker shortage in the next couple of weeks, but I do think it's going to start having a very positive impact shortly after the money begins to flow,” Fraser said. 

To apply for a portion of the $90 million in available funding, organizations must submit project proposals by the end of January 2023.

On the same day as the federal announcement, Nova Scotia said it will be adding 10 new residency spots for international medical school graduates. The province’s Health Department said priority for those positions will be given to graduates with “a connection to Nova Scotia.” 

The move will bring the total number of medical residency positions for international graduates to 16. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 5, 2022.

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Lyndsay Armstrong, The Canadian Press

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