Posts Tagged "Perspectives"


Internationally trained health-care professionals unable to help in COVID-19 fight. Here’s why

by admin

Canada is in its third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, with emergency and intensive care departments struggling to cope with the number of cases. Yet there continues to be an untapped resource in the fight against the pandemic: internationally educated health professionals (IEHP).

Fauzia, whose last name we are withholding to protect her privacy, is an internationally trained physician from Pakistan who came to Canada in 2007. She says Canada accepted her because of her credentials and because the country needed physicians.

Even though she has successfully passed all the Canadian licensing exams — each medical exam cost around $2,000 — she was unable to secure a residency spot.

Fauzia then volunteered with different hospitals in order to “stay in the field and gain any possible Canadian experience.”

“They assigned me as a greeter to greet patients and visitors coming to the hospitals,” Fauzia said, adding that she was also tasked with closing and sealing envelopes. She even tried to apply for roles within the health-care system, like clinical assistant roles.

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She recalls in one interview she was asked about her typing and Excel skills but never anything about her medical background or knowledge. She was also told that part of her responsibilities was to clean washrooms.

“(I) felt so humiliated, this is so demeaning.”

Finally, she decided to apply for a temporary licence that Ontario approved, where hospitals are allowed to hire internationally trained doctors to assist with the fight against COVID-19. However, Fauzia never got a response.

“This is a joke,” she said.

On April 7, 2020, Ontario launched an online portal where IEHPs can apply to be matched to health care-related jobs to assist with the pandemic. According to an email response from the Ontario Ministry of Health, as of April 15, a total of 2,889 IEHPs had signed up on the province’s online portal. Thirty-one employers requested IEHPs, resulting in 20 matches.

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Global News reached out to the Medical Council of Canada (MCC), an organization in charge of keeping a consistent standard when it comes to the qualification to practise medicine for physicians in the country.

“Medical regulatory authorities grant licenses to physicians applying to practise medicine in a Canadian jurisdiction for the first time,” MCC said in an email, regarding its process for IHEPs.

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One of the requirements is having “a degree of medicine from a medical school that, at the time the candidate completed the program, was listed in the World Directory of Medical Schools.”

HealthForceOntario, a recruitment agency, indicated that in the province there are 13,000 internationally trained physicians and 6,000 internationally trained nurses, medical lab technicians, respiratory therapists and other health professionals. Many of these IEHPs aren’t working in the health-care sector. Instead, many of them are unemployed or working for low wages and in precarious conditions.

A recent study published by Statistics Canada found only 41 per cent of foreign-trained immigrants are working in health care compared to 58 per cent of Canadian-born individuals with a health education. The study also found nearly half of those immigrants are underutilized. The data indicates this underutilization is higher among visible minorities compared to white populations.

“The situation is really bad; I can’t even describe how bad it is. Nurses are feeling the brunt of this pandemic, they are burnt out, experiencing fatigue and emotional breakdown,” said Birgit Umaigba, who is an intensive care nurse in Toronto and a nursing instructor at Centennial College.

Birgit adds that she’s seen physicians assigned to ICU nurse duties due to shortages.

“It would have been better and cheaper to allow internationally trained nurses to work in hospitals rather than asking doctors to fill in the gaps and continue to pay them doctors wages.”

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As an instructor, Umaigba has met and worked with many nurses who’ve already been trained, but internationally.

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“These nurses are highly qualified, have the ability to work under pressure with limited resources and are trained to work in times of crisis, as many of them come from war-torn countries and deal with highly sensitive situations in a hospital setting.”

Doctors have raised concerns about the current staffing situation in hospitals, including Dr. Michael Warner, the medical director of critical care at the Michael Garron Hospital.

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Systemic barriers to practice


There are many systemic and structural barriers in place preventing IEHP from practising their profession in Canada. This includes challenges navigating the health-care system and understanding the complicated process of relicensing, limited access to information, lack of financial resources and having to go through a lengthy, time-consuming and financially draining process to undergo multiple assessments and exams at both the federal and provincial levels.

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The exorbitant fees of these assessments and exams have been identified by IEHPs as one of the barriers. On top of medical examinations, IEHPs have to do English Language Proficiency and CASPer (Computer-Based Assessment for Sampling Personal Characteristics) tests. After going through this process, they’re faced with a larger barrier: limited residency spots, as in Fauzia’s case.

From 2016 to 2020, Fauzia applied every year for a residency spot but never got one. It costs her about $1,500 to go through the same process to apply for a residency spot.

According to CaRMS, in 2019 less than a quarter of international medical graduates (IMGs) who applied — 391 out of 1,725 applicants — for a residency position were matched.

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For nurses, the situation is even more challenging. In Ontario, internationally educated nurses represent 11 per cent of the total nursing labour force. According to the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO), 40 per cent of internationally educated nurse applicants never complete the application process due to systemic barriers.

Since the start of the pandemic, many organizations and advocates have called for the use of IEHPs during the pandemic. This includes a proposal by the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council and World Education Services.

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The proposal, titled “Mobilizing Ontario’s Internationally Educated Health Professionals to Maximize Ontario’s COVID 19 Response,” asked for the mobilization of the province’s almost 20,000 IEHPs.

Many politicians have also called for the use of IEHPs and the elimination of systemic barriers that are keeping these professionals from practising. For example, Brampton, Ont., councillor Charmaine Williams has asked the province to eliminate the barriers faced by foreign-trained doctors to practise in Ontario so they can help in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

MPP Doly Begum also called for the province of Ontario to use the skills and expertise of IEHPs.

“Our government must work together to build a comprehensive strategy to support foreign-trained workers across all fields and ensure that we are preventing brain drain and deskilling among immigrant communities,” Begum said.

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Many advocates have also proposed policy recommendations that would allow IEHPs to join the fight against the pandemic and practise in the long term.

Currently, Fauzia works virtually as a part-time telehealth general physician for a Pakistan-based company and gets paid $1 for each consultation she gives.

“IEHPs could have joined the front lines and helped at so many levels,” says Fauzia.

Sara Asalya is the founder and executive director of Newcomer Students’ Association, a grassroots organization working at the intersection of migration, education and social justice. 


Transgender boy bullied at Edmonton school speaks out: ‘They just need to learn’

by admin

In March, Jasper Hicks received vile messages from some of his classmates, after using the boy’s washroom at J.J. Bowlen Junior High School in Edmonton.

The texts, which were sent in a lengthy group chat that included multiple other students and shared with Global News, expressed blatant transphobia and hateful comments towards the teen.

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“I could just switch genders mid-day,” reads one text. “So I could just walk into the girls bathroom whenever. I’ll keep that in mind.”

“Jasper, do you have a penis or a vagina?” reads another. “Let me just break it down for you.”

“There was messages that said ‘Jasper, nobody loves you, nobody gets you,” Jasper’s mom, Amanda Hicks said. “They were vicious. It was hard to read.”

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“I just want to educate you,” Jasper responded to one student. “This is literally harassment.”

Jasper returned to school in January for the first time after transitioning. The group chat was his first experience with transphobia, but he said he wasn’t surprised.

“This sounds bad…but, it was kind of bound to happen,” Jasper told Global News. “I was mentally prepared for it anyway.”

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J.J Bowlen’s principal brought Jasper in to discuss the texts. His parents, Amanda and Corey Hicks, said the principal suggested Jasper use a gender neutral washroom or a staff bathroom instead. They said Jasper was told “boys will be boys” in response to his experience with the other students, while two of his friends were present inside the office.

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“It was unbelievably disappointing,” Amanda said. “This school has created a culture where these types of conversations are okay.”

In a statement to Global News, an Edmonton Catholic School Division (ECSD) spokesperson said “we are deeply saddened that the student had an ongoing negative experience during such a pivotal time in his life. We are committed to continuing to work with the family to make sure their son feels safe and welcome in the school.”

ECSD declined to comment on any specifics between staff or students, due to privacy legislation.

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A letter addressed to the Hicks family from the deputy superintendent, Tim Cusack, detailed that the J.J. Bowlen principal “expressed his genuine and profound remorse regarding the way this matter has unfolded.” It went on to say that he “fully acknowledges that despite the intent of his interactions in support of Jasper, the impact was not as intended.”

Under the direction of ECSD, All J.J. Bowlen staff, including its principal, are undergoing inclusivity training.

The Hicks are now calling on ECSD to provide mandatory training for all staff and students in the district.

“We need mandatory training of educators for everyone. Not just for transgender issues but all [LGBTQ+] issues,” Corey said.

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ECSD said it acknowledges “we have work to do with the school community to ensure all students, staff and families will be provided with an inclusive, welcoming, caring…environment.”

Click to play video: 'CMHA highlights the obstacles people face when coming out as transgender'

CMHA highlights the obstacles people face when coming out as transgender

CMHA highlights the obstacles people face when coming out as transgender – Dec 3, 2020

Why Jasper is speaking out

The 14-year-old said he understands speaking about his experiences publicly could lead to more transphobia — both online and at school.

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But, he felt it was important to try to use his own experience as a teachable moment.

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“People that don’t understand me or don’t accept me, are just ignorant,” he explained. “They don’t know the facts. They just need to learn.”

Jasper said he is hopeful that other transgender kids may take comfort in hearing him share his story firsthand.

“So they know they aren’t alone. There are other people out there going through the same things,” Jasper said.

“We are very proud of the strength that Jasper has, but what about the other students that didn’t have that strength?” Amanda said. “Reading through that chat…through those horrible messages, the harassment…he was trying to educate. He was trying to make the world a better place.”

Amanda and Corey believe without further action, Jasper’s experience will continue to mirror the stories of other trans teens.

“Being an ally is an every day thing. It’s not a thing that happens one week in June,” Amanda said. “How do we stand up and protect our youth today?”

Click to play video: 'Transgender Awareness Week: Margot’s Story'

Transgender Awareness Week: Margot’s Story

Transgender Awareness Week: Margot’s Story – Nov 17, 2020

How to support trans teens


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Dr. Kris Wells, a MacEwan University professor and leading national researcher on gender and youth, said Jasper’s story can be a learning opportunity for all of us.

“I really want to celebrate his courage and strength for speaking out,” Wells said during an interview on Global News at Noon. “That resiliency is amazing.”

Wells said there are four things a school can do to create a safe space for LGBTQ+ youth:

  1. Inclusive curriculum
  2. Finding supportive teachers
  3. Comprehensive sexual and gender identity policies
  4. Visibility and inclusion

Wells said if other students are uncomfortable with a trans student using the same washroom as them, they are the ones who should be getting an accommodation to use a private washroom.

“Because otherwise we are sending the wrong message.

“Trans youth are not the problem here, transphobia is.”

Though not all transgender teens will be ready to share their story openly like Jasper did, Wells said it’s essential to find a trusted adult to talk to.

“You don’t have to justify your existence. You are valid. You deserve to be safe and included in your school.”

Click to play video: 'Dr. Kris Wells shares 4 ways people can help transgender students in schools'

Dr. Kris Wells shares 4 ways people can help transgender students in schools

Dr. Kris Wells shares 4 ways people can help transgender students in schools – Apr 14, 2021

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