Saudi doctors are making waves in Canada, according to the kingdom’s cultural attaché for the North American country.

Dr. Fawzi Bin Abdulghani Bukhari announced that 95 percent of non-Canadians allowed to study in the fellowship and specialization programs of Canada’s French and English medical schools are Saudi nationals, the Saudi Gazette reported Saturday.  

Dr. Bkhari credited this fact to the high quality of Saudi doctors and the positive relationship between the kingdom’s cultural mission and the North American country’s medical schools.

For the 2018 to 2019 academic year, 514 Saudis have been accepted into Canadian medical programs, 421 in specialization programs, research fellowships or scientific communication programs and 93 in medical fellowships, according to Dr. Bukhari

In total, more than 1,000 Saudis from within the kingdom applied for such medical programs, as well as 230 additional Saudis who were already studying in Canada.

Saudi Arabia needs more doctors

Saudis pursuing medical careers are currently an important asset to the kingdom. 

A June report by Arab News revealed that Saudi Arabia will need a significant increase in medical professionals within the next couple years to meet the growing needs of the kingdom. Experts estimate that by 2020, the kingdom will need an additional 10,000 doctors and about twice that many by the following decade.

The report followed a previous one that pointed out the kingdom would require 5,000 additional hospital beds by 2020 and 20,000 more by 2035 to accommodate a growing population.

“There is a direct correlation between number of beds and medical staff,” Mansoor Ahmed, director for health care, education and PPP at Colliers International, told the Saudi newspaper. “By 2020 [Saudi Arabia] will require an additional 10,000 doctors and by 2030 another 20,000 doctors on top of that."

Will qualified Saudi doctors return to the kingdom?

Interestingly, a previous report also revealed that the majority of doctors in Saudi Arabia's public hospitals were foreign. Out of 42,768  working in the kingdom's public hospitals, 66.5 percent were foreigners, Arab News reported last May.

While it's positive that Saudis are popular candidates for medical positions in western nations such as Canada, Mansoor also pointed out that situations like this could lead to brain drain in the kingdom.

"A large number of doctors, nurses and paramedical staff in [the kingdom] migrate to western countries after a few years due to better opportunities and training facilities," the health care expert said.

"The government’s role is extremely important in establishing career-focused educational institutions, such as medical and nursing colleges, to increase the supply of local medical professionals and to drive qualified Saudi talent into jobs," he explained.