Canada’s Efforts to Stem a Continuing Doctor Shortage

pediatricianCanada has long suffered from a shortage of available doctors, in large part due to outdated regulations mandating a limit on the number of doctors who can be trained in the country. This limit has left Canadian communities with few options to acquire sufficient new doctors, and even if it were to be removed, the lengthy period of time required to train a doctor means that the repeal of the limit would have no effect for approximately five years.

The shortage can also be attributed to increased specialization in the medical field. Advances in medicine have necessitated specialization in order to afford patients expert care, and this means that communities can no longer be satisfied with general practitioners alone; cities now require the assistance of pediatricians, neurosurgeons, anesthesiologists, podiatrists, and other specialists in order to keep up with developments in modern medical practice.

Many Canadian cities have turned to active recruitment of young doctors in order to remedy their shortages. The city of Cambridge, Ontario, for instance, has taken up an aggressive marketing campaign designed to attract new doctors. Cambridge is emphasizing the city’s livability and short commutes, both of which are alluring to doctors used to life in metropolises. Nearby Waterloo region communities, like Kitchener, are considering implementing similar programs to help remedy their own shortages.

Doctors are working to find ways to spread their time more effectively in order to provide as much medical coverage as possible. Increasing numbers of physicians have begun to work on teams at clinics rather than maintain individual practices, allowing them to see many more patients. Clinics themselves have evolved as well, expanding their staffs to include trained nurse practitioners who have more advanced skill sets than most nurses and are able to take on some of the work that would have previously been performed by doctors.

Patients also have some significant agency in finding available doctors. Public directories of doctors taking on new patients are on the rise; Doctorlink is one popular option. Many practices that supposedly are not taking on new patients actually are willing to accept friends and relatives of current patients and employees, so Canadians seeking doctors may be able to find a doctor through their close acquaintances.