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Ottawa family doctor denied permanent residency over marital status, age

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An Ottawa family physician won't get to stay in Canada after she did not meet the threshold because of factors outside her control.

“It breaks my heart because I do understand how important it is for every single person to have a family doctor,” said Dr. Carmen Bilcea.

Bilcea moved to Canada from the United Kingdom in 2021 and currently practices at the Meadowlands Family Health Centre.

She’s currently on a five year work visa and applied for permanent residency through the federal government’s Express Entry program, but was denied.

“The entire immigration process in Canada is extremely lengthy, extremely torturous, is costly and the outcome is uncertain,” said Dr. Bilcea.

Based on the application process, the doctor did not meet the threshold for permanent residency because of factors like not being married and being over the age of 45.

It’s an agonizing wait that she said is hard to not think about constantly.

"They would have no access to health care and primary care," said Bilcea who has 1,200 patients.

"They would probably need to go to walk-in clinics and emergency departments."

“You got a physician who dearly wants to work here, who has a practice here, who is seeing patients and fulfilling a need desperately needed in the province,” said Dr. Barry Dworkin.

“It’s just not how you treat physicians who want to come work in the province.”

In a statement to CTV News, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) would not comment on Dr. Bilcea's specific case but said they have made changes to the Immigration and Refugees Protection Act to facilitate the selection of candidates in June 2022.

The changes are meant to facilitate the selection of candidates based on key attributes such as education, work experience or knowledge of an official language.

"IRCC has set target ranges for the various categories for 2023. This includes 9 per cent to 12 per cent of invitations to apply for permanent residence via Express Entry going to candidates with work experience in certain jobs in healthcare, compared to 4.8 per cent in 2019 and 4.5 per cent in 2022 – prior to the introduction of category-based selection," the statement read.

As Ontario grapples with a doctor shortage, it’s estimated that more than two million people are without a family doctor, a number that could double in the next three year, according to the Ontario College of Family Physicians.

“There are 1,200 patients at stake, because if she leaves because of this, we can’t find anybody. There is nobody that wants to do family medicine,” said Dr. Dworkin.

Without permanent residency, Dr. Bilcea says she will have to return to the UK in a little more than a year, or risk losing her medical licence there where it has to be renewed yearly.

“I have a lot of patients to take care of and it upsets me to think they may be left without a doctor,” she said.

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