The future recruitment of doctors from South Africa to Athabasca has become a much more difficult process, following a policy change by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta.
The changed policy regarding South Africa increases the assessment period for doctors from that country from two weeks to three months before they are eligible to work here.
The doctors are unpaid and under supervision for this assessment period.
The change, according to Mabel Dick, chairperson of the Athabasca Physician Recruitment and Retention Committee, could make the work of the committee more difficult as South Africa had been a rich pipeline for bringing new doctors to town.
The committee brought two doctors from South Africa to Athabasca in the past year, bringing to four the number of South African doctors in town, but that success could be reduced in the face of the altered position on South African-trained doctors.
“This is a big change for us,” explained Dick. “It will completely change the way we recruit doctors from South Africa.
“Previously, we brought the doctors to Athabasca to showcase the town. If they decided to come here, they would complete a two-week assessment and then they could begin work.
“The three month assessment could be a deterrent to doctors interested in coming here. These doctors take on a lot of disruption and expense to move here, and now will have to go through a three-month assessment without pay.”
South Africa was previously one of six countries on an ‘expedited list’, meaning their doctors could work here after just two weeks under assessment.
South Africa was removed from that list, with some believing this came about because South Africa wanted to stem the flow of doctors leaving their country for foreign shores.
The two-week assessment time now applies only to New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, the U.K. and the U.S.
The new conditions on South African doctors will be discussed at the committee’s next meeting on Jan. 12, said Dick.
Dick added that the committee is now focusing much of its attention of doctor retention.
“Retention is very important,” she said. “The thing about a good doctor is they can go wherever they want, but we want them to stay here. We want all of our doctors to stay here.”