Nova Scotia hires Ukrainian helpers to speed licensing for health professionals

Olena Kudenko is a community navigator hired to help Ukrainian health-care workers.  (Jean Laroche/CBC - image credit)
Olena Kudenko is a community navigator hired to help Ukrainian health-care workers. (Jean Laroche/CBC - image credit)

Nova Scotia says things will move faster for Ukrainian health-care professionals looking for work here.

On Thursday, Michelle Thompson, minister of health and wellness, announced that the province hired three community navigators to liaise between the Ukrainian community and the health-care system. She said it plans to hire more.

Their role will be to answer questions, help with translation, and support Ukrainians in their journey.

Olena Kudenko and her husband, Alix Chamlat, are already working in the province's health-care sector. Chamlat is working as a health support aide at Colchester East Hants Health Centre while he awaits to be licensed as a doctor in Nova Scotia, and Kudenko is working as a community navigator at Nova Scotia Health.

Jean Laroche/CBC
Jean Laroche/CBC

"At the end of the day, the colleges are responsible for protecting the public regardless of which college that is," said Thompson.

Some Ukrainian health-care workers who fled the war and came to Nova Scotia have been vocal about their struggles when seeking work in the province's health-care sector.

"I know that we are committed to bringing folks in, bringing them in in a way that we can use them to the highest use. So perhaps not everyone can get full licensure here, but there are roles for clinical associates as an example."

The province says that as of Aug. 5, 234 Ukrainians expressed interest in medicine here and are in various stages of the licensing process. From that number, 144 are physicians, 14 are registered nurses, 12 are licensed practical nurses, and 64 fall into another health professional category.

Cutting process by more than a half

"We've been working very hard to stream things that in the past might be nine months to 12 months into about three months, for instance," said Sue Smith, registrar at Nova Scotia College of Nursing.

"We do this by thinking about efficiencies, by bringing more people on board to help with this, for instance, human resources and other things. We are finding ways to expedite some of those processes as well."

Jean Laroche/CBC
Jean Laroche/CBC

A few weeks ago, Newfoundland and Labrador designated a person to help Ukrainians navigate the licensing process after many expressed their frustrations. It also said it would pay the fees.

Minister says program is in its early days

Many Ukrainians have been struggling to get a work permit because they say they've been waiting a long time to complete their immigration medical exam, a Canadian immigration requirement normally done overseas. Under the Canada-Ukraine authorization for emergency travel, Ukrainians can book their exam in Nova Scotia.

"I think we're in the very early days of understanding what some of the barriers are and how we create a line of sight to support people. So I would say there's really nothing off of the table. We just need to better understand this program will mature, and we'll be able to support people across the province," said Thompson at the announcement.

She also said the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia developed a streamlined service to review the qualifications of international physicians, including those from Ukraine. The goal of a new pathway is to shorten the licensing time and reduce administrative work.

Earlier this week, the province announced a $340,000 fund for the Nova Scotia College of Nursing to find ways to streamline the process.

Cindy MacQuarrie from Nova Scotia Health said in partnership with the Nova Scotia College of Nursing, Nova Scotia Health is launching a pilot program in the fall that will provide internationally educated nurses with a streamlined process to access bridging education programs.

"This program will maintain the rigour of the current program for nurses, but in a more condensed time frame including ongoing supervision and mentorship."