Hospitals brace for loss of hundreds of medical residents as Saudi Arabia pulls out its students

OTTAWA — Canadian hospitals are bracing for the loss of hundreds of medical residents and fellows after Saudi Arabia said it is pulling all of its students out of the country.

While institutions are still hoping the federal government can find a way to prevent the departures, they are lamenting the personal strain that a diplomatic spat will put on the residents, and the additional pressure it could put on hospitals. In the meantime, medical faculties have negotiated with the Saudi government to ensure that nobody has to return home before the end of the month, said Dr. Salvatore Spadafora, vice-dean of post-MD education at the University of Toronto’s faculty of medicine.

“There’s always hope,” Spadafora said. “It’s all the way up to the highest levels of both governments to find a resolution.”

The planned recall is just one in a series of retaliatory actions taken by the Saudi Arabian government after Canada called for the release of jailed human rights activists. Canada’s ambassador was expelled on Sunday and new trade was halted as Saudi Arabia insisted that a post on a Twitter account run by Global Affairs Canada had violated its sovereignty and interfered in its domestic affairs.

In Montreal on Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not back down from his government’s criticism of the kingdom.

“Canadians have always expected our government to speak strongly, firmly and politely about the need to respect human rights around the world,” he said.

Thousands of Saudi students have been ordered to leave Canada, including about 750 Saudi Arabian citizens who are learning highly-specialized medical skills while providing care to, for the most part, Canadian patients. That’s the most recent number available, as of November 2016, from the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada.

At University of Toronto-affiliated hospitals, 216 out of 3,600 residents are Saudi, Spadafora said. At McGill University-affiliated hospitals in Montreal, 225 out of 1,250 residents are from Saudi Arabia, according to spokeswoman Gilda Salomone.

The Canadian taxpayer does not fund Saudi residents, instead their government pays hospitals $100,000 a year to take them in, which includes salary support. The relationship goes back four decades, and has meant more support for care in some hospitals, without corresponding increases in Canadian government funding.

Positions are “over and above” the spots provincial governments afford to Canadian students, Spadafora explained. “They would sit empty otherwise. It’s extra capacity.”

There will be an impact — he refused to speculate on how big, just yet — but the immediate concern is over the well-being of the students themselves, who will face major disruptions in their careers. He said it’s a shame that the longtime program could come to an end.

“We’re in the process now of really sitting down with our hospital partners, site by site, and program by program, and figuring out what the impact will be if September 1, these folks aren’t around,” Spadafora said. “The situation came on fairly suddenly and hopefully a resolution could be found equally suddenly and surprisingly.”

At University of Toronto-affiliated hospitals, 216 out of 3,600 residents are …read more

Source:: Nationalpost – News


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