Ontario proposes getting out-of-province doctors to work more quickly

Health-care workers from across Canada could soon start practising in Ontario more quickly under legislation the provincial government plans to introduce next month.

Premier Doug Ford said Thursday that new "as of right" rules would see credentials of health-care workers registered in other provinces and territories automatically recognized in Ontario, without the need to register with a regulatory college in this province.

"A doctor from British Columbia, or a nurse from Quebec who wants to come and work in Ontario shouldn't face barriers or bureaucratic delays to start providing care," Ford said at a news conference in Windsor, Ont.

"So to nurses, doctors and health-care workers across Canada: If you've been thinking of making Ontario your new home, now's the time to make that move. We're here, we're waiting with open arms and jobs to fill."

But the announcement contained few details, and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario said it was eager to learn more.

There are existing expedited paths for Canadian physicians to become licensed in Ontario, the college said, including through the Canadian Free Trade Agreement and a recently created temporary registration.

"Both the CFTA and the Temporary Independent Practice Class licenses are expedited and issued within 5 days of a completed application," spokesperson Shae Greenfield wrote in a statement.

"We look forward to working with government to better understand the details underlying the 'as of right' rules."

The College of Nurses of Ontario said it would provide more information "as it becomes available."

"(The college) protects the public by promoting safe nursing practice," spokesperson Kristi Green wrote in a statement.

"One of the ways we do this is by registering nurses who have the knowledge, skill and judgment to practice safely. We are working with the Ontario government on changes to the health care system, to ensure patients can receive safe care."

Ford said the changes would allow professionals such as doctors and nurses looking to move to Ontario to get to work as soon as they arrive. They will have to register with their regulatory college within a year of arriving in Ontario.

The changes would mark the first step toward a pan-Canadian portable registration model, the province said.

Quebec's health minister wrote on Twitter that all provinces are facing the same shortage of health workers.

"We all have an interest in recruiting international staff," Christian Dubé wrote. "In the meantime, we'll continue to work so that our network becomes an employer of choice."

The government also said the upcoming legislation will allow health professionals including nurses, paramedics and respiratory therapists to temporarily work outside of their regular responsibilities as long as they have the skills and knowledge necessary.

It will provide hospitals with more flexibility to fill in-demand roles, such as during viral surges, the province said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2023.

Allison Jones, The Canadian Press