Saudi exodus a blow to London hospital system – The London Free Press

The impact of losing 54 medical trainees from London’s health-care system is still being sorted, but it is clear that it could be bleak.

Days after Saudi Arabian medical residents and research fellows were ordered out of Canada by their government, there is scant information from London Health Sciences Centre, St. Joseph’s Health Care or Western University.

Those institutions issued short statements earlier this week but indicated on Thursday that no other information would be released until next week.

But the president of the Ontario Medical Association said it is sure to be a burden on an already-strained health-care system.

“Our health-care system is at the point where there is no wiggle room so to have this sudden vacuum appear out of nowhere will have ripple effects that will be felt for a while,” said Dr. Nadia Alam.

Some physicians have advocated we should not be wasting our resources on visa trainees when we need more Canadian doctors — but money talks.

Rosemary Pawliuk

Alam said patients will inevitably notice the difference. “Patients are going to notice that other doctors are filling in. Continuity of care will be interrupted, there may be delays.”

She said research projects could also be disrupted as vital team members are removed.

She also said hospitals and medical schools will also feel the financial impact as Saudis withdraw the funding sent over to support their medical students.

“That funding was a part of what we used to operate our medical education system in Canada . . . The trickle-down effect could be felt for years.”

Rosemary Pawliuk, executive director of Society of Canadians Studying Medicine Abroad, said Canada’s deal to train Saudi students has skewed our medical education system. She said there is only a limited supply of experienced doctors available to train and some of the spots are being taken by Saudis, displacing Canadians who could help address chronic doctor shortages.

“We are training foreigners from a nation with one of the worst human rights record,” she said.

Pawliuk said the University of British Columbia makes an $8-million profit from training Saudi students.

She said teaching hospitals and universities get more funding from training foreign students, including Saudis, and that displaces Canadians.

“Some physicians have advocated we should not be wasting our resources on visa trainees when we need more Canadian doctors — but money talks.”

But Alam said it’s not that simple.

She said the Canadian health system had a deal to create a parallel stream, largely funded by the Saudis, to allow their medical students to train in Canada and then return to their homeland. As a result Saudis make up a large portion of all the foreign medical trainees in Canada.

Alam said if that deal suddenly falls apart, the funding goes with it, and it will likely not create more spots for Canadian medical students.

Alam expects most hospitals will just to try scrape by with fewer people, at least in the short term.

“Most programs are just stretching because they are in the middle of training and research. These people aren’t like widgets that you can take out and put another one in.

Alam said the diplomatic spat with the Saudis has developed so quickly that health-care facilities such as the LHSC are left scrambling to adjust.

Very alarmed to learn that Samar Badawi, Raif Badawi’s sister, has been imprisoned in Saudi Arabia. Canada stands together with the Badawi family in this difficult time, and we continue to strongly call for the release of both Raif and Samar Badawi.

— Chrystia Freeland (@cafreeland) August 2, 2018

She said Canada’s legitimate demands for the release of Raif and Samar Badawi, the Saudi human rights activists, have been percolating for years and the reaction to a single tweet from foreign minster Chrystia Freeland has been a shock.

“It’s extraordinary that this one tweet is the straw that broke the camel’s back,” she said