Newspaper article The Canadian Press

As Saudi Doctors Face Recall Home, Many Questions Remain about Impact in Canada

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

As Saudi Doctors Face Recall Home, Many Questions Remain about Impact in Canada

Article excerpt

Potential Saudi MD pullout leaves many questions

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MONTREAL - Health officials across Canada were trying to determine Wednesday the potential impact if about 800 medical residents and fellows from Saudi Arabia suddenly leave the various networks next month.

The planned recall of that group comes after Saudi Arabia suspended diplomatic relations with Canada on Sunday in response to a tweet from Global Affairs Canada that criticized the Saudis for the arrest of female social activists.

The diplomatic row has escalated with a series of measures taken by the Saudis that include recalling students -- including medical students and residents -- to Saudi Arabia.

Saudi medical students make up the vast majority of foreign medical trainees in Canada, according to the Ottawa-based Saudi Arabian Cultural Bureau.

The bureau, part of the Saudi Education Ministry, which is in charge of placing Saudi medical students, has persuaded the kingdom to give trainees a "grace period" until Sept. 1 to return home, said Dr. Salvatore Spadafora, vice-dean of post-MD education at the University of Toronto's faculty of medicine.

In Toronto, that means 216 Saudi doctors out of the 3,600 residents and fellows in their system -- the biggest in Canada.

"So 216 people is not insignificant, but we've got a pretty big network," Spadafora said in an interview.

"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."

In Montreal, 225 out of the 1,250 residents at the McGill University Health Centre and the Jewish General Hospital are from Saudi Arabia.

MUHC spokeswoman Gilda Salomone said hospital authorities are monitoring events.

"The situation is still fluid, it's evolving," Salomone said. "We're evaluating the situation and the impact it has on our programs. …

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