Canada’s healthcare system is struggling with serious staff shortages, hurting patient care. Hospitals nationwide have been closing ERs and reducing services because they don’t have enough doctors and nurses. Even big city ERs like Calgary are overpacked due to staff shortages.

The government is hoping that immigrant healthcare workers can help fix the problem. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is changing the Express Entry program to prioritize the entry of skilled healthcare workers into Canada.

In 2022, the government announced a new way to pick immigrants called “Express Entry category-based draws.” Instead of just looking at education and work experience, these new draws will focus on filling jobs in areas Canada lacks, like healthcare. Healthcare, STEM fields, trades, transportation, and agriculture jobs were all chosen as priority areas.

The goal is to bring in immigrants who can immediately fill open jobs in fields that need more workers. Category draws work like the regular Express Entry system, but focus more on your work history in one of the targeted jobs than your overall score.

Why is Healthcare a Priority for Canada?

Canada has been dealing with doctor and nurse shortages for a long time. Hospitals have had to close ERs overnight or even permanently because they don’t have enough staff. Over 180 ER doctors in Calgary wrote a public letter about how bad things have gotten.

To make matters worse, healthcare job vacancies hit a record high last year. Over 143,000 healthcare jobs were unfilled in the last quarter alone. Immigration has usually helped fill healthcare jobs – about 1/3 of doctors and 1/4 of nurses in Canada were born somewhere else.

However, foreign healthcare professionals often face challenges getting approved to work here. The government wants to make it easier for trained doctors, nurses, and others from abroad to get licensed and start working in Canada’s healthcare system immediately.

How Many Healthcare Staff Does Canada Actually Need?

The government’s statistics show that over the next 10 years, Canada will need over 330,000 new healthcare workers. Specifically, around 155,000 new registered nurses, 49,000 family doctors, 30,000 specialists, 16,000 pharmacists, and many other roles will need to be filled.

The numbers are clear. Canada is in dire need of healthcare professionals and is welcoming skilled immigrants to help fill these gaps.

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