07/25/2012 07:18 EDT | Updated 09/24/2012 05:12 EDT

Doctor targets foreign restrictions in lawsuit

An Iranian-born anesthesiologist has filed a lawsuit against the New Brunswick College of Physicians and Surgeons for unfairly restricting doctors with medical degrees from foreign medical schools.

Henry Houshmand lost his full licence in 2010 "as a result of his ceasing work with the Restigouche Health Authority," according to his notice of application.

He had been working in the province since 2000 with a public service licence, which was upgraded to a full licence in 2007.

In September 2008, Houshmand left his practice at the hospital in Campbellton to upgrade his training in New York. Now, because of changes to rules for doctors with foreign degrees, he can only get what is called a defined licence.

Houshmand wants to move to Ontario, but that province's regulatory body will only accept doctors who have full licences from other provinces. Houshmand said that it amounts to a restriction on his ability to practice his profession elsewhere in Canada.

“I don't think this is fair to us. When you work here, for me at least, for 12 years I worked here … I provided my service here, and if I feel like I want to go somewhere else I should be able to go,” he said.

Ed Schollenberg, the registrar of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, said doctors are not allowed to keep a New Brunswick licence for the purpose of relocating elsewhere.

He said the provinces have been working to adopt similar terminology on licensing to make it easier for physicians to move within Canada – which is required under inter-provincial trade and labour agreements.

Provinces' demands

But, Schollenberg said, when it came time to harmonize the language with the other provinces, the other provinces insisted New Brunswick stop using the term "full licence" for doctors with foreign credentials.

Schollenberg also said that Houshmand’s initial licence was granted in 2000 based on the province’s need to attract doctors with his skills. Normally, he said, doctors with foreign credentials would not have received a full licence.

But because New Brunswick was the only province that actually paid lower salaries to doctors without full licences, an impediment to recruitment of foreign doctors, the college sought to address its skill shortages by giving them full licences.

The college did so with the expectation that other provinces would respect the transferability of lesser licences given to foreign-credentialed doctors. But, Schollenberg said, several other provinces including Ontario have reneged on that agreement.

Therefore, he said that Houshmand's problem is with the Ontario college for reneging on that promise.

Houshmand has asked a judge to force the New Brunswick college to give him a full licence.

In his lawsuit he stated: “At no time between his initial registration in December 2000 and March of 2010 was Dr. Houshmand ever advised that there were any conditions or restrictions upon his licence."