HALIFAX -- Nova Scotia wants to make the immigration process easier for internationally trained physicians who already have a job offer, as the province continues to deal with a persistent shortage of family doctors.

Immigration Minister Lena Diab said Thursday that a new stream has been approved under the provincial nominee program, which seeks skilled immigrants.

Diab said the program is aimed at doctors in the United Kingdom, Ireland and the United States.

"It will be easier and faster because this stream targets family doctors from countries with recognized training equivalencies with the College of Family Physicians of Canada."

Diab said the stream would eliminate duplication by relying on assessments already carried out by the Nova Scotia Health Authority and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia.

That should speed up processing time for doctors who have already demonstrated training similar to that in Canada and who have been licensed by the province's College of Physicians and Surgeons.

"It has significantly reduced processing times," Diab said. "We can process an immigration application under this new stream in just five to 10 days."

In the past, the immigration process could years, officials said.

To date, one doctor has been processed through the new stream. Dr. Jamie Tribo, who currently lives in Virginia, plans to practise family medicine in Cape Breton starting this spring.

The new stream is part of a broader recruitment strategy as the province looks for ways to replace retiring physicians.

Dr. Lynne Harrigan, vice-president of Medicine with the Nova Scotia Health Authority, said the authority would try to recruit as many doctors as it can through the stream, though its initial target is a modest 12 doctors per year.

"We already have five on the ground and seven signing up so we are probably going to achieve or exceed our goal this year," said Harrigan.

She said work is also continuing on finding a replacement for the Clinician Assessment for Practice Program, which was cancelled in 2015 by the College of Physicians and Surgeons after new national medical standards were put in place.

"That brought international medical graduates into Nova Scotia at a rate of about 10 to 15 per year," said Harrigan. "That's about 30 docs that we are down simply by the loss of that program, which is why we are beginning to focus on England and Ireland."

There are currently 75 vacancies for doctors in the province. That's up from 66 listed in December.

She said the overall recruitment goal is 110 doctors per year "to maintain or to start to make ground" on shortages.

Kevin Chapman of Doctors Nova Scotia said the new stream is a positive step.

"I think anything that makes it easier for physicians ... to come into the country and practice is a positive step because it is really complicated."