© 2024 Maine Public | Registered 501(c)(3) EIN: 22-3171529
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Scroll down to see all available streams.

State lawmakers consider first steps in addressing licensing barriers for foreign-trained physicians

A woman wearing a green jacket stands at the front of a classroom next to a model of the human body.
Ari Snider
Maine Public
Aimee Biba teaches a Certified Nursing Assistant course at Portland Adult Education last year. Biba worked as a nurse anesthetist in her native Democratic Republic of Congo, but when she immigrated to the U.S. she had to redo nursing school in order to become a Registered Nurse.

Many foreign-trained physicians in Maine are unable to practice medicine here due to what they say are bureaucratic barriers, even as the state experiences a severe shortage of healthcare workers.

This week, lawmakers on Health Coverage, Insurance, and Financial services committee heard testimony on a bill that would form a commission to study how to integrate foreign-trained physicians into the state’s medical workforce.

More than half a dozen foreign trained physicians testified before the committee, expressing frustration at being being on the sidelines with skills that are in high demand.

One of those doctors was Jean Lenda, originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who told lawmakers he’s worked as a certified nursing assistant and has made Covid tests since arriving in the U.S., positions far below his previous level of certification.

"But my hope, my wish is to go back and work and help people at the level, at least near the level, at what I was trained for," he said.

Sarah Calder, with MaineHealth, also urged lawmakers to advance the bill, saying the state’s largest medical system is facing a workforce crisis.

"We're currently recruiting for over 2900 positions, in addition to over 55 physicians and 70 advanced practice providers," she said.

As written, the bill would direct the commission to report back to the Legislature later this year.

While the committee heard no testimony against the bill, Tim Terranova, with the Maine Board of Licensure in Medicine, said the board was concerned the commission would not have enough time to answer all the complicated questions relating to licensing, insurance, and education credentials.