Posted on February 24, 2005

Many Foreign Physicians Not Making the Cut

Doug Williamson, National Post (Toronto), Feb. 18

WINDSOR — Touted as a solution to Ontario’s physician shortage, nearly half the foreign-trained doctors who apply to eventually practise medicine in the province do not make the first cut, according to figures from the Ontario Health Ministry.

As a result, the province was not able to reach its limited quota last year.

Concerns have also been raised about the calibre of the latest group of nearly 600 International Medical Graduates (IMG), who recently went through a round of clinical tests as the provincial IMG Ontario office narrows down the list to this year’s quota of 200.

“Just participated in the IMG exam as an examiner along with some of my colleagues. I was utterly dismayed by the calibre of these finalists,” reads an e-mail sent on Feb. 15 to a Windsor doctor by a colleague who helped evaluate finalists this month.

“Out of the 30 that went through my . . . station, only two were practice-ready. Half failed to diagnose the straightforward case presentation and were functioning at a medical school level, the remainder were clerkship level.

“This is the underbelly of this politically correct movement. God forbid you express any clinical and scientific criteria to the process. These people will be passed through on the wave of political expediency. The government is playing a shell game with this and is likely to create a public health fiasco.”

The e-mail was obtained by The Windsor Star. The name of the sender had been deleted.

The province is hoping that its full quota of 200 IMG candidates will qualify for residencies in Ontario medical schools with their affiliated hospitals this year, with 50 of them allowed to fast-track for a physician’s licence after six months. Residencies usually last from two to six years, depending on the specialty involved.

That did not happen last year, when only 165 out of 1,088 original applicants got the spots, and only 14 were good enough to fast-track, a ministry spokesman said.

Results thus far are similar for this year’s batch. Last November, 1,041 IMGs wrote exams at McMaster University, University of Toronto, University of Western Ontario and University of Ottawa. Only 559 of the foreign doctors passed and went on to take the clinical tests. The 16 separate tests involved different patient scenarios. Results will be sent to the candidates in April.

This year, a total of 855 residencies will be offered in Ontario medical schools.

“We’re looking at the (IMG) candidates to perform at a level equivalent to a fourth-year medical student,” Health Ministry spokesman David Jensen said.

He had no comment on the e-mail from the examining doctor.

“Why don’t we wait and see what the results are of this? We were very curious to know what we’re dealing with,” Mr. Jensen said.

Dr. Albert Schumacher, president of the Canadian Medical Association, said 10% of Canadian-trained doctors fail their tough final examinations after completing residencies.

Kathryn Clarke, spokeswoman for the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, which ultimately licenses Ontario doctors, said the college is committed to licensing only those physicians who can qualify. “The important thing is to build a system. We want to increase the physician resources, but we want to do it responsibly and fairly.”