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Saudi MDs get brief grace period to remain in Canada

AP  |  Toronto 

Canadian health authorities said today that hundreds of Saudi doctors and residents who make up the largest segment of foreign medical trainees in the country will remain in until the end of the month, giving hospitals a few weeks to cope with the sudden staffing loss caused by a diplomatic spat.

The 800 medical trainees are among more than 15,000 Saudis whose government has ordered them to suddenly leave the country due to Canada's criticism of the ultraconservative kingdom's arrest of women's right activists.

The bureau that places the country's students in convinced the kingdom's government to let the medical trainees stay until Sept. 1, said Dr. Salvatore Spadafora, the vice of post-MD education at the faculty of medicine.

Spadafora oversees 216 of those Saudis in the Academic Health Sciences Network.

He said the loss of the trainees will cause disruptions at Canadian hospitals, particularly in some specialized fields, but said it's too early to fully know the impact. "At the end of the day it's still 216 people that might not be showing up for work," he said.

"We have until Sept 1. That's not saying it's going to easy or straightforward. It is like people not being there one day, but we have the luxury of people having more time." While the says the students, whose education it is paying for, can now study in other nations, the change will dramatically alter the future for many.

Some of the residents and doctors are entering their final and fifth year of their programs and the change will derail some careers, Spadafora said.

"These are very dedicated and bright and hard-working people who are studying very hard," he said. "To have that disrupted is very stressful for them." said it's very difficult for those with families and leases.

"All we've done is gotten a little bit of time to the end of the month. It's not necessarily going to solve everything but it helps the individuals which has really been our focus," he said.

"Hopefully at the highest levels there is resolution that we can avoid all of this." Canadian has said Saudi students continue to be welcome.

Saudi state television has reported that was coming up with an "urgent plan" to move thousands of Saudi scholarship students out of Canadian schools to take classes in other countries. The Saudi also said in a statement on its official account that it would suspend all flights to starting Monday, August 13.

The dispute appeared centered around tweets by Canadian diplomats calling on the kingdom to "immediately release" detained women's rights activists.

Among the arrested activists is Samar Badawi, whose brother was arrested in in 2012 and later sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison for insulting Islam while blogging.

His case long has been raised by international human rights groups and Western diplomats, including Canadians, who have called on to free him.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, August 08 2018. 23:40 IST