NDP MLA asks province to remove ‘red tape’ for international nurses to work during pandemic

Manitoba’s Opposition is calling on the provincial government to make it easier for international nurses to get certified and accept work during the pandemic. 

MLA Malaya Marcelino (Notre Dame), the NDP’s critic for immigration and the status of women, said nurses who are internationally educated can’t get certified in Manitoba because the CELBAN  — a required English test — isn’t offered right now because of COVID-19. 

Marcelino said she’s been made aware that 80 nurses have finished their gap training at Red River College, but are stuck in limbo because they can’t take their exams, despite being offered jobs at Manitoba hospitals. 

“They’re not able to accept their job offers because they’re not allowed to write their licensing exams,” Marcelino said during question period on Wednesday. 

NDP MLA Malaya Marcelino said 80 internationally-trained nurses can’t accept work in Manitoba because they can’t take their CELBAN exam. (Austin Grabish/CBC)

“At a time when we need more nurses than ever,” she said. “What is the health minister doing to help them write their qualified exams?” 

Health Minister Cameron Friesen said he’s been engaging with the College of Registered Nurses of Manitoba for weeks about the matter and has a meeting with them next week evening to discuss it. 

“We’re trying to focus the efforts of the college on exactly this to remove barriers that would allow nurses right now to come into jurisdiction and to practise. We’ve had some success working with the college and we appreciate all of their efforts,” he said. 

In email statement to CBC News, the college said it’s aware of the challenges related to the language testing. 

“The college is working with the minister of health and health system leaders to ensure that qualified applicants are registered safely and expeditiously, and that any proposed solution is supported by the appropriate legal framework,” the statement said. 

Marcelino said she has heard from many internationally trained nurses who say Manitoba is the most difficult jurisdiction to get certified for a licensed practical nurse or a registered nurse. 

Health Minister Cameron Friesen said he’s been talking to the College of Registered Nurses of Manitoba to remove barriers for international nurses. (Global News)

“For international registered nurses to receive their credential recognition … [there are] too many barriers, too much red tape,” she said.  

The college said its approach to assessing internationally-educated nurses is quite similar to most jurisdictions across the country, as applicants have to apply through the National Nurse Assessment Service first.  

It acknowledges the process of obtaining RN registration as an internationally educated nurse in Manitoba is complex, as there are several steps and some applicants might require remedial education or training supports. 

“The context and nature of RN practice around the world varies greatly and the process in Manitoba is necessarily rigorous in order to ensure safety, protect the public interest, and uphold public confidence,” the college said. 

The college said either it or Friesen will provide an update about the language testing requirement in due course. 

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