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With residencies going unfilled, questions arise on international doc restrictions

Posted on April 13, 2023 by admin

By Kendall King

Southern Alberta Newspapers

Following news that Alberta has 42 vacant post-graduate residency positions so far this year, questions have been raised over restrictions to international medical graduates, or IMGs, seeking residency positions.

Data from the Canadian Resident Matching Service released last week shows Alberta has the highest number of vacant residency positions after the first round of matching in almost a decade.

With another round of matches to follow, there is a chance for the vacant positions to be filled, but there’s also a chance they remain without graduates to do so.

In 2022, Alberta had 17 unmatched residency positions, 11 in family medicine; and across Canada, 115 positions went unmatched, with 99 in family medicine.

Yet, not all graduates who applied for residency were matched with a position.

Of the 2,100 IMGs who applied to complete their post-graduate residency in Canada, 74 per cent were unmatched – a number drawing criticism from some due to the desperate need for new physicians across the country.

To learn why such a high number of graduates are being turned away while residency positions go unfilled, Southern Alberta Newspapers reached out to CaRMS CEO John Gallinger.

Gallinger explained that CaRMS, an independent and non-profit organization, facilitates matches between graduates and residency programs offered by the nation’s 17 med schools.

Each year, roughly 6,000 applicants apply to be matched through CaRMS – far more applicants than there are positions available in a given year.

Of the available positions, 90 per cent are reserved for Canadian medical graduates, or CMGs, and the remaining 10 per cent for IMGs.

“The number of positions available to Canadian medical graduates is just a little bit more than the number of Canadian medical graduates in any given year,” Gallinger told Southern Alberta Newspapers. “And so, there are fewer positions available that international medical graduates are eligible for than there are international medical graduates applying.”

Gallinger confirmed CaRMS has no say in the number of positions reserved for CMGs and IMGs; rather those numbers are determined through collaboration between each medical school and the health ministry of the province the school is located in, and can change year over year.

In 2022, there were 400 post-graduate residency positions available in Alberta, 383 of which were matched, with CMGs matching 344 positions and IMGs, including U.S. graduates, matching 39.

Recognizing the need to increase provincial residency matches, Health Minister Jason Copping announced mid-March the province is investing $113 million in the creation of 100 additional residency positions over the next three years, 30 of which will be reserved for IMGs.

“The process is undergoing a change,” Scott Johnston, press secretary for Copping, told CTV News in a statement. “(Minister Copping) has already asked the department to work with the deans to make sure that if there are any unfilled spaces, they offer them up to the best available IMGs because of the need to train more doctors.”

Recruiting residents are doctors who have already graduated and completed a residency program in an international country, but want to practice in Canada, and therefore must go through the Alberta International Medical Graduate Program to confirm they meet the Canadian standard for physicians.

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