Osborne promises to help Ukrainian health-care workers overcome employment barriers in N.L.

·2 min read
Newfoundland and Labrador Health Minister Tom Osborne says the provincial government will pay Ukrainian health-care workers' licensing fees. (Patrick Butler/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Newfoundland and Labrador Health Minister Tom Osborne says the provincial government will pay Ukrainian health-care workers' licensing fees. (Patrick Butler/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Patrick Butler/Radio-Canada
Patrick Butler/Radio-Canada

Newfoundland and Labrador's health minister met with Ukrainian health-care workers Thursday, after a doctor who has come to the province from the war-torn country expressed frustration this week with a lack of communication from the provincial government.

Tom Osborne says the province is working to reduce employment barriers facing the workers.

"They want to be working. We need health-care professionals in Newfoundland and Labrador. We want them working," said Osborne, who met with 11 people who worked in various health disciplines in Ukraine before they fled Russia's invasion in the spring.

As first reported by The Canadian Press, Maryna Sikorska, a family physician from Kyiv who is eager to work as a doctor in St. John's, expressed frustration after her emails to the provincial government went unanswered for 10 days.

We need to remove some of the barriers and expedite the process. - Tom Osborne

Meanwhile, Nova Scotia's Health Department has contacted some Ukrainian physicians in Newfoundland and Labrador to offer perks like housing and daycare to relocate.

There is a shortage of doctors and other health-care workers in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Polling from N.L.'s medical association suggests nearly 125,000 people in the province don't have a family doctor. Emergency rooms in dozens of rural communities have closed frequently since January, sometimes forcing people to drive hours to seek care.

Maryna Sikorska/Handout/The Canadian Press
Maryna Sikorska/Handout/The Canadian Press

One hurdle blocking a speedy path to getting the Ukrainians working in the province's strained health system is English language proficiency, said Osborne. While some of the health-care workers he met with spoke the language well, others will need to become fluent, he said.

Earlier this week, the Health Department said it would remove one obstacle for Ukrainians who want to work in the province, by paying their professional licensing fees.

"We brought them here, invited them here, they've come here essentially with nothing. So we've removed that barrier," said Osborne.

The health minister said the group were meeting with the province's College of Physicians and Surgeons — which checks doctors' credentials to ensure they meet national and provincial standards — and Memorial University, which is responsible for physician readiness assessments after the college gives foreign-trained doctors the green light.

"We understand the reason that the bar is set where it is, but we need to remove some of the barriers and expedite the process," Osborne said.

In March, the provincial government set up a help desk in Warsaw to assist Ukrainian refugees relocating to Newfoundland and Labrador, and has also chartered two flights to bring them to St. John's.

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