Atlantic Canada 'perfect place' for regional licensing model, says head of P.E.I. Medical Society
The head of the Medical Society of P.E.I. says she thinks a regional licensing program for doctors in Atlantic Canada is a good idea.
Dr. Krista Cassell told Island Morning host Laura Chapin that allowing doctors to work in any of the Atlantic provinces without additional licensing requirements will help improve access to care for Islanders.
"P.E.I. is small and occasionally, we are looking for other people to come and give [a] hand, either filling gaps in our schedules, work as a locum or provide virtual care," she said. "And people can't do that if they're not licensed to practise medicine in P.E.I."
Cassell said right now doctors have to be licensed in each province they want to practise in — whether they work full-time, part-time or virtually. She said the paperwork is onerous, involving a lengthy application and a significant fee as well.
"More flexibility and portability of medical licensing that will increase our pool of available physicians to provide care for Islanders," she said.
She also noted the program is good for long-term staff attraction and retention.
"We know that having people come here and work is actually really good for recruitment and retention efforts," she said. "Not only do we retain our current positions a little better when we have a little more help, but we may show people a place to practise that they otherwise hadn't considered."
More portability of doctors' licences is one of the discussions that has come out of Ottawa's new health-care deal with the provinces. The president of the Canadian Medical Association has also previously identified provincial licensing as a barrier for physicians.
Register in effect by May 1
During a meeting of Atlantic premiers in Charlottetown on Monday, premiers said they anticipate the Atlantic Physician Register will be in place by May 1.
Details of how the register will work are not yet known, but Cassell suggested one way a program like this could work is for doctors to be licensed in their home province, then indicate interest in registering to practise elsewhere in the region.
"Because Atlantic Canada is so small, this really is a perfect place for a trial. You know, lessons will be learned as we try to roll this out," she said.
"Atlantic Canada is really an excellent proving ground that will help us scale this up across the country."
In addition to increasing the number of doctors available to practise in-person medical care on P.E.I., Cassell said the registry could also have a positive impact on virtual-care services, which she said already grew in popularity during the pandemic.
"That's a space that's opening much more widely now, so it's even possible that we can have access to specialists that we may not have had access to previously without leaving the Island," she said.
CBC News reached out to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of P.E.I. — which handles medical licensing for the province — but didn't hear back.
Health P.E.I. declined to comment, deferring to the Medical Society to speak about regional licensing.