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Why is the health-care sector increasingly hiring temporary foreign workers?

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July 11, 2024

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Naju Gadhavi

Healthccare workers

Canada’s healthcare system is facing a crunch. There just aren’t enough nurses, doctors, and other staff to care for everyone who needs it. This is partly because the population is getting older and needs more medical attention. The COVID-19 pandemic made things even worse. To cope, hospitals and other healthcare providers are bringing in temporary workers from other countries. This might seem like a quick fix, but there are pros and cons to consider. Let’s break down why Canada is relying on temporary healthcare workers, what it means, and the good and bad that come with it.

Surge in Temporary Foreign Worker Hires in Health-Care Sector

That’s interesting information about the rise in temporary foreign healthcare workers. It highlights the increasing need for staff in Canada’s healthcare system. While the overall number may be a small portion of the total temporary foreign worker program, the significant jump from 447 approvals in 2018 to 4,336 in 2023 shows a clear trend. Even though healthcare occupations only make up around two percent of all approved temporary foreign worker positions, it’s a growing area within the program. This suggests a real effort to address staffing shortages in the healthcare sector.

The increasing need for healthcare professionals

Canada’s healthcare system is under growing pressure. On one hand, the population is aging, which means more people need medical attention. On top of that, the COVID-19 pandemic exposed weaknesses in the system, particularly a shortage of qualified staff. This shortage affects hospitals, long-term care homes, and even home care services. In order to address this gap, healthcare providers are increasingly relying on temporary foreign workers to fill the critical staffing needs.

Why the shift to temporary workers?

Several factors are driving the rise of temporary foreign workers in Canadian healthcare:

  •  Canada’s aging population needs more medical care, especially for long-term conditions and in long-term care facilities. The existing workforce simply can’t keep up with this growing demand.
  •  COVID-19 stretched healthcare workers thin, leading to burnout and higher turnover. Temporary foreign workers have been crucial in filling the gaps and maintaining service levels during this crisis.
  • Foreign-trained medical professionals often face challenges getting certified in Canada. Temporary work permits allow them to work while navigating the process, offering immediate support to the healthcare system.
  • Hiring temporary foreign workers can be more cost-effective for healthcare institutions compared to training new local staff. Additionally, these workers are often willing to work in remote or underserved areas where staffing shortages are most acute.

Challenges and Considerations in Hiring Temporary Foreign Workers in Healthcare:

  1. Integration and Support: Effective integration requires robust support systems such as orientation programs, language training, and mentorship to help foreign workers succeed in the healthcare environment.
  2. Certification Barriers: The complex and lengthy certification process for foreign-trained professionals can hinder their ability to fully utilize their skills and qualifications in Canada.
  3. Job Security and Rights: Ensuring fair treatment, including equitable wages, benefits, and working conditions, is essential to safeguard the job security and rights of temporary foreign workers.
  4. Long-Term Solutions: While temporary workers offer short-term relief, sustainable solutions are needed. This includes investing in local training initiatives and creating pathways for permanent residency to address systemic healthcare workforce challenges effective.

Canada’s healthcare system needs more staff. Temporary workers help now, but training Canadians for the future is also important. This will ensure a stable workforce for quality care.



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