Num­ber of doc­tors in Canada grow­ing

The Prince George Citizen - - News - Dirk MEISSNER

VIC­TO­RIA — The num­ber of doc­tors in Canada is grow­ing at a rate more than dou­ble that of the pop­u­la­tion, says a re­port by the Cana­dian In­sti­tute of Health In­for­ma­tion.

Canada’s pop­u­la­tion in­creased by 4.6 per cent be­tween 2014 and 2018, while the num­ber of physi­cians grew by 12.5 per cent over the same time pe­riod, says the re­port re­leased Thurs­day.

Man­i­toba and Bri­tish Columbia reg­is­tered the largest in­creases in doc­tors at more than 17 per cent each while Que­bec had the low­est level of physi­cian growth at 5.9 per cent, just be­low the 6.5 per cent growth in Nova Sco­tia.

While the sup­ply of doc­tors has grown faster than the pop­u­la­tion over the past dozen years, many Cana­di­ans con­tinue to re­port dif­fi­cul­ties find­ing a fam­ily physi­cian, said Ge­off Ballinger, the in­sti­tute’s physi­cian in­for­ma­tion man­ager.

“The big ques­tion is why does there seem to be this dis­con­nect be­tween the grow­ing num­bers of physi­cians and the fact that around the same pro­por­tion of Cana­di­ans are still hav­ing a chal­lenge ac­cess­ing physi­cians,” he said.

The Cana­dian In­sti­tute of Health In­for­ma­tion is an in­de­pen­dent, not-for-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion that works with gov­ern­ments and stake­hold­ers to gather and pro­vide in­for­ma­tion on pol­icy, man­age­ment, care and re­search.

The re­port found that in 2018 there were al­most 90,000 physi­cians in Canada, which is equiv­a­lent to 241 physi­cians per 100,000 pop­u­la­tion, the high­est num­ber per capita ever, said Ballinger.

Sta­tis­tics Canada fig­ures from 2016 show 15.8 per cent of Cana­di­ans aged 12 and older, or about 4.8 mil­lion peo­ple, re­ported they didn’t have a reg­u­lar health care provider.

The fig­ures show Que­bec, at 25.6 per cent, had the high­est pro­por­tion of res­i­dents who were with­out a reg­u­lar doc­tor, fol­lowed by Saskatchew­an at 18.7 per cent and Al­berta at 18 per cent.

Lib­eral Leader Justin Trudeau made an elec­tion prom­ise ear­lier this week to en­sure all Cana­di­ans have ac­cess to a fam­ily doc­tor.

Ballinger said the higher fig­ures were en­cour­ag­ing for pa­tients look­ing for a reg­u­lar physi­cian.

“The is­sue that we don’t have a han­dle on yet is whether those in­creased num­bers of physi­cians are per­haps in parts of the prov­ince where the great­est need is,” he said. “We are see­ing across the coun­try that pa­tients do have an is­sue try­ing to get ac­cess to a physi­cian, par­tic­u­larly pa­tients more in ru­ral and re­mote ar­eas.”

The re­port also re­veals a chang­ing de­mo­graphic trend among the physi­cian pop­u­la­tion, cit­ing more fe­male doc­tors in Canada than ever be­fore.

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