Canada HealthCare Blog

Global BC Interview Transcript


With Mike Smyth,

Audio Transcript


Short of everybody here, we certainly need more doctors. Let's discuss it now with my guest, Phil Martin. Phil is the CEO of a physician recruitment company. It's called Physicians for You, and I'm very pleased to welcome him. Phil, thanks a lot for coming on today.

Absolute pleasure. Nice to be speaking with you, Mike.

Yeah, it's nice to have you on here. Can you tell me a little bit about your company? What do you do there at Physicians for You?

Yeah, so we are a physician recruitment service. We globally source physicians from around the world and help them through all complexities of the licensure process, both national and provincial. We work with them with clinics and hospitals to find suitable opportunities and help them through the licensure and immigration process. And even after they start work, we keep in contact with them and just make sure that they settle and have a solid foundation for that long-term success.

Okay, that's very interesting. It sounds like there is almost a global competition going on right now for these healthcare professionals. I'm sure Canada is not the only country with a shortage.

Are these professionals in demand all around the world?

Oh, massively. I mean, physicians are getting calls from Australia, New Zealand, the Middle East, Canada. I mean, every single week they're getting calls from all over the place and everyone's competing with each other.

I mean, you're even seeing it in Canada now with the different provinces sort of competing. BC gave a pay rise to the physicians last year. Alberta have made it easier for doctors to get in on a full license.

Ontario have removed the exam and the supervision requirement and still can practice independently. So it's a lot of competition globally for what is a sort of a small amount of physicians really for the need that is sort of in place globally.

Yeah, well, I can see why they'd be calling a guy like you for help here and sorting through all of that. Let's have another listen to David Eby here on this point. And you'll hear him describe here something you just touched on. He said the provinces sort of have a deal among themselves that they won't try to steal each other's doctors.

But then you'll hear him talk briefly about the United Kingdom here in the end. And I want to get into that, too. But let's listen to Eby here about provinces saying like, OK, let's not steal each other's doctors here. Let's listen:

One of the challenges we've had nationally is provinces competing with each other for these professionals, driving up salaries and a fixed pool of specialists to deliver this care. And that's not sustainable.
An agreement that we reached with the other premiers that we're all doing our best to honour is that we're not going to try to poach people from other provinces across Canada. We're going to try to support each other with training and better coordination. For us, though, we didn't make that commitment to the government of the UK.

OK, and then he and then he goes on to talk a little bit about the ad campaign in the UK, and Phil, I'm interested in your thoughts on that. But let me ask you first here about he said that the provinces have this deal among each other not to try and steal each other's doctors and stuff. Is that is that true? Is that going on? Or I imagine I think maybe some of this stuff is still going on anyway, though, isn't it?

I think there's always been a thing where, you know, you don't you don't recruit people from within Canada to other places of Canada. You don't want to sort of take one person from a dire need into another place with dire need. You know, you saw a lot of it with South African doctors years ago with ethical recruitment when Nelson Mandela came out and said, you know, stop stealing our doctors because everyone was just finishing their training and literally coming straight to Canada.
But I think it's still being done indirectly in Canada, because, you know, if you're constantly making the rules easier, I mean, under what's called the CFTA agreement, a doctor should be able to easily transfer from one province to another province to get licensed.

But the doctors that we see, even though they're already licensed in one part of Canada, run into so many challenges trying to get licensed in another province. It's still not easy. And I think because the promises are changing the rules, they are improving the offers.

Yes, they may not be advertising for a particular physician from another province. But if you're going to give your doctor the pay rise or make it easy to get in, you know, via various pathways, you know, that is going to encourage doctors to come from not only outside of Canada, but also within Canada.

Yeah, it's really interesting. Speaking of Phil Martin, CEO of Physicians for You, Phil is a doctor recruiter trying to bring professionals here to Canada, British Columbia. What is British Columbia's reputation here, Phil, in terms of a place that is desirable for doctors to work? Do doctors want to come work here? Is it easy to come here and work?

Well, I mean, I've been lucky and blessed in my life to live and travel around the world. I wouldn't live anywhere else in the world apart from British Columbia. I think this is one of the most beautiful places in the world. And it certainly is a high area of interest for a lot of our doctors. The challenge is, is how hard it is to get into the province.

There's just so many hurdles and there's a lot of bureaucracy and politics that really make it so hard for the physicians. I mean, I've got multiple doctors coming into Vancouver at the moment. I mean, at any one time, we have 350 to 400 physicians actively looking for jobs in Canada.

And the amount of hurdles and bureaucracy that you come up against, I mean, not to mention any names, but there's, you know, government agencies that almost actively work against what we do, which is such a shame because it's the Canadians that are missing out on the health care that they need. I mean, we've got a world, sort of a first class province with a third class health care system. It shouldn't be right that so many people do not have access to family physicians.

And we have got so many looking. We're really open to partnerships. You know, we'd love to work with the health authorities, the different government organizations.

We do it in other provinces in Canada. And it's just such a more fluid process. You know, we're not here to take away their jobs or work against them.

We're here to work alongside them and complement what they do. And, you know, we've got a tried and tested model. I've been doing physician recruitment for the last 18 years globally.

I started off in the UK, went over to Australia, and I've been doing it in Canada since 2010. And without a doubt, we're one of the hardest countries in the world to get into. I mean, one of my doctors that came to BC, I think a year or two ago, said, honestly, it's like they're almost trying to keep us out, she said, you know, and we have to help them with all the sort of processes and get them through.

And it's a shame because, you know, they can go elsewhere much easier. I mean, you can go to Australia in six months. And, you know, Australia was very much competing with Canada for quite some time back in the day.

You could get like half a million dollar golden handshakes to come and commit to a long term role and things like that. It's not as affluent as it once was down there for doctors. And I think a lot of people are choosing Canada because it's sort of close to the home for a lot of physicians.

I mean, I used to work in Toronto and phone my mum and dad up when I finished work and it'd only be sort of 10 in the evening back home, whereas where you're in Australia, it's a bit further away. But doctors definitely get frustrated with the processes. And I always think of my job as half as a cheerleader because you're sort of having to encourage and get them through sort of the various steps.

And as I always say to them, you know, the hardest paths lead to the best destination. So it's all 100 percent worth it once you're here. It's just a shame that a lot of doctors come into Canada. Their first sort of seeing of Canada is just all the problems and bureaucracy and the challenges they just have just trying to get a license so they can get into the country and practice. But that's why a lot of people come to us. I mean, we literally live and breathe this process.

I start work at two in the morning. I work 15 hours a day, seven days a week. It's a full time job, 24 seven to guide these physicians through and give them all the assistance and guidance to make sure that they do the process in the right order.

And really, the goal is to set them up for success with a role that is right for them so they can sort of have that continuity of health care for the patients, the area and things like that. So it's a very rewarding job, but it's a very tough job.

OK, we're talking about the shortage of doctors in British Columbia, the global competition here to attract doctors to B.C. My guest is Phil Martin, CEO of Physicians for You.

That is a doctor's recruiting company trying to bring doctors here to B.C. and to Vancouver. And as you heard Phil describe before the break, there is very difficult for doctors to come here and get certified and licensed to practice in British Columbia. I want to dig further into that with him here.

Let's have a listen first here to David Eby, the B.C. premier here, talking about the advertising campaign that the B.C. government has launched in the United Kingdom to bring British doctors to B.C. Have a listen to this.

If the government of the U.K. is not recognizing what they have in terms of the amazing skilled professionals that are there, they're not compensating them properly, they're not treating them with respect, then they should come to British Columbia. We literally have the word British in our name and they'll feel very at home here.

We've got double-decker buses in Victoria. There's so many wonderful opportunities for British doctors to come here and enjoy everything that our province has to offer. I personally would like to welcome them at the airport and thank them for their contributions to our health care system.

Okay, Phil, what do you think of that? We've got British in our name here, British Columbia. We've got double-decker buses, you know, come on over. We want the doctors to come here and work. Yeah, right.

Yeah, well, I think the challenge we have is that we are, third-party recruitment is just not as common or as respected a job, I suppose, as it is in other countries. You go to places like the U.K., Australia, you know, physician recruitment agencies that are, you know, private companies are very, very well established.

There's hospitals, clinics, doctors, governments that will only work through agencies, where in Canada, you know, I always sort of joke that it's about 10 years behind other countries. It's sort of, yes, you have provincial government recruitment agencies, but that is not enough for the work that's needed to be done to get these physicians through the process. And we would love the opportunity to work with the various health authorities in B.C., because the way that we do physician recruitment is based on a U.K. and Australian recruitment model, which is incredibly successful.

And it's allowed us, I mean, we turn doctors away daily that we can't help, because we are, what we do works so well in terms of sourcing physicians. We've got an impeccable reputation in the market for the service that we provide. I mean, I've just got such a fantastic team that I work alongside, who know the processes for licensure, know the national processes.

We keep abreast of all the changes, because Canada is almost like the E.U. You know, you've got 10 provinces that all have their own rules and regulations. And if you look at them on paper, they can look very similar. But the reality is they're all very individual.

So, you know, whereas you need sponsorship and supervision now in B.C., coming in as an IMG, even though it's only for three months, you don't now need that in Alberta. So it's actually easier to go into Alberta now rather than it is in B.C. So there's so much work that needs to be done. And we are so open to working with the governments, working with the health authorities, and assisting them in their physician recruitment needs, because we have got so many doctors looking and so many doctors available that we could literally make such a big difference.

And it's just a case of hopefully, you know, having those doors opened in some way.

I mean, this is super frustrating to listen to and to hear that we've got a government here say they're going flat out to try and bring these doctors into British Columbia. We've got billboards on the underground, the tube stations in London saying to these British doctors, come on over here. We want you. We'll pay you more.

And you're telling me, though, that there's a lot of barriers here to bring them in. I mean, this doesn't make sense, Phil.

Well, I had a doctor once. Now, I must be honest. In all fairness, the rules are getting easier. I mean, in the last 14 years, I've been doing physician recruitment every year. The rules kept changing to actually make it harder.

I had a UK GP once that was required. This is back a few years ago when B.C. required the physicians to also have certain rotations during their postgraduate training. I had a physician once that was missing two of the rotations.

So he went back and did 16 weeks of unpaid work to get be able to get licensed in the time that he went and did it. The rules changed in B.C. where the rotations were no longer required and they replaced the exam with a QE1. And he just said, you know what, I'm not doing this anymore.

You know, he sort of did what was required. The rules change and he just stayed back home. So and that's a more of an extreme example.

But you do see it happen a lot with physicians where they just get asked for so much. It goes into so much. I mean, I work with the doctors as best I can.

You know, sometimes you have a doctor that, you know, had a hospital he worked at 25 years ago that is now closed down and the people that worked with him have died. And the college insists on getting a certificate of standing from that hospital, even though it's not possible. I think there's a sort of misunderstanding that, yes, you know, documents might be easy to get from certain countries like the UK, Australia, Ireland.

But when you've got a doctor that maybe did their medical degree or sort of training, you know, or worked at some point in places like Saudi Arabia or Pakistan and things like that, those countries don't have, you know, the systems that we do to get documentation. So getting a document from, say, 10, 20 years ago before you had electronic medical records can be very, very tough for physicians. So that's where we help, though.

I mean, we guide our physicians. I've worked with thousands and thousands of doctors over my years of doing this. We work with clinics, hospitals, health authorities and governments all across the country.

We certainly have a good understanding of how things work. Obviously, it's only our opinion and our perspective. I know there's always more to it, but we definitely see a lot of physicians struggling to get through it.

And I know from the other side, you know, you've always got to be very careful. You know, there's been situations in England where, I mean, this is a story from years ago, but there was a doctor that came over from Germany, couldn't speak English very well. He did a short locum and actually a patient died because he couldn't speak English.

So again, you have to have some lines.

Phil, it's been fascinating to speak to you. And I want to thank you very much.

I think it's been a real eye opener for our listeners here. And hopefully we can streamline this process because we need these doctors. Thank you for coming on.

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