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by Nandika Ravi

Canada’s health system is feeling strained as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the country. Many Immigrant Medical Graduates (IMG) who are ready to help feel pushed to the sidelines in times of need. Medical licenses of foreign nationals aren’t valid in Canada.

“When you fill out the application for becoming a permanent resident, immigrants clearly state that they’re doctors and medical professionals,” said Maria Andrelita Austria, Consul General at the Philippines Consulate.

“But when they get here, it’s really frustrating to find out that they’re unable to practice.”

Raul Valles, an accomplished doctor in the Philippines, moved to Canada with his family ten years ago.

“I have three degrees – medical technology, an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist and a nurse,” Valles told OMNI.

“I got my medical licenses from the Philippines and California.”

Valles started working at an orphanage, was a caregiver in a senior care facility, and even cleaned salmon in a fish processing plant, to make ends meet. He is just one of the many internationally trained medical professionals who dream of becoming a doctor in Canada.

Roxanne Cecilia is another immigrant who works as clinic laboratory manager. She used to be in occupational medicine and was a general practitioner for eight years in the Philippines. She hopes that the government will recognize her international credentials.

“We are all in this together,” Cecilia said.

“If they need more manpower to fight Covid-19, they should look into doctors in the Philippines who are underutilized. Better that they try to consider our skills, knowledge. If you’re a Filipino, you’re good at dealing with patient care.”

The Philippine consulate penned a letter to the ministry of health in August expressing the willingness of licensed Filipino medical professionals to help during the pandemic. The College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia is considering a move that could allow more foreign-trained physicians to work. Internationally trained medical professionals may practice as “associate physicians” under the supervision of licensed Canadian doctors.

Valles may have given up on his dream to be a doctor again. But his support will never cease for fellow doctors here in Canada who are fighting for their dream.

“If you have the chance to go back to your profession, go for it,” Valles said.

“It is truly rewarding.”