Integrating into the health care system: A challenge for internationally-trained physicians in Canada

By Sohaila Khaliqyar

©FCJ Refugee Centre/2018/Khaliqyar. (Left) Dr. Raziq and his colleague Dr. Nahid at FCJ Refugee Centre.

Toronto, Canada, April 2018- It has never been easy to be a refugee. Facing new challenges, such as accommodating to a new environment and transforming and applying the learned knowledge and experience into a new community is impossible without continuous support of government and community centres in catalysing the process of integration. Among internationally trained professionals in various fields, physicians who invested a lot in their field and earned many years of education and experience in their home country, now have to deal with a long process of getting a job as a physician in Canada.

FCJ Refugee Centre, an agency which is well known as a home for newcomers in Toronto, welcomes refugees including physicians to work with them and earn Canadian work experience in different areas. It is an opportunity for foreign trained doctors to learn about the health care system in Canada.

Dr. Raziq Hussain arrived in Canada as a permanent resident in 2014. He studied Family medicine at Benghazi University in Libya but as with many internationally- trained doctors he faces the challenge of how to get his credentials recognized and to get a job.

The Canadian health care system doesn’t recognize internationally trained professionals,” said Raziq Hussain “I need to take many exams to be certified as a doctor in Toronto.

©FCJ Refugee Centre/2018/Khaliqyar Dr. Raziq talks with new comer patient at the FCJ Refugee Centre.

Despite the challenges Dr. Raziq faces in integrating into his field of work he is committed to work for those who are in need of health care support; he joined FCJ Refugee Centre as Primary Health Care Clinic Coordinator in 2015 and has worked with a team of dedicated doctors to provide primary health care services for uprooted people, particularly women and children.

“Coming to the FCJ Refugee Centre helped me a lot. I am learning about the Canadian health care system, especially dealing with those who are insured by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) and those who are not.” said Raziq Hussain. “Working for uprooted people at the FCJ Centre has made my life more interesting. l have been learning different stories, managing different cases, seeing new faces every day.”

Given the fact that Canada is a welcoming country, health care services still remain a challenge for newcomers particularly for those who get stuck in the immigration process or have no-status. According to Raziq it is an important issue that needs to be addressed by the government. “Canada is a welcoming country, but politicians are not keeping up with reality on the ground. We have a larger number of newcomers [every day] and some of them have no status but I think health care is a human right, especially when there are people with complicated illness like heart disease or cancer that needs immediate treatment.” Said Dr. Raziq “I would like to tell the government and non-government organizations to step up their funding projects to help accommodate this population.”

He adds that engaging internationally trained doctors in the country’s health care system is a key to extending the health care services for the community and the venerable groups of immigrants.

“I hope that the clinicians and the board who controls the licenses of physicians in Canada become more flexible and allow internationally trained physicians to practise their knowledge and give them a chance to contribute to the people in need of health care services.” said Raziq.