Canadian doctors share national sense of disgruntlement
“The year 2012 saw the highest level of physicians per capita ever recorded in Canada,” the authors of the reports said. What’s more, the six-year trend of growth in the number of doctors outpacing population growth is expected to continue since data from medical schools indicate more students are graduating with MD degrees. Between 2008 and 2012, the number of female physicians increased by nearly 24 per cent, while the number of male doctors increased by 10 per cent. In all provinces, women represented a larger proportion of family doctors than specialists. Since 2008, the number of doctors working in rural areas increased five times faster than the rural population, with almost 6.400 physicians in 2012. But the numbers alone don’t present the full picture. It’s important to ask not just how many doctors are needed, but where are they most needed and in what specialties, said Geoff Ballinger, CIHI’s manager of physician information. Kristin Speth, 35, of Toronto, has been looking for a regular doctor since she moved from Alberta four years ago. She’s had headaches since childhood and has been going to walk-in clinics but is frustrated with the experience. She’s tried the provincial service to find a doctor but keeps getting notices saying there are no leads. “It is extremely frustrating,” said Speth. “It’s just so hard to find someone who will just stay longer than the one year that I need for my physical. They just don’t stick around or you know, you can’t find anyone who is taking new patients.” In 2011-12, clinical payments to doctors’ offices also increased nine per cent over the previous year to more than $22 billion, the institute reported. In the two previous years, the increases were 6.1 per cent and 7.9 per cent, respectively.
Doctors in Alberta, Quebec and Ontario are all upset, all about the same thing money although for different reasons. Quebec doctors are furious at the Parti Quebecois government for asking them to delay a pay increase negotiated by the previous government to help bring pay levels up to those in the rest of the country. Canadian doctors are among the worlds best paid , but Quebec doctors lag behind the rest of the country and reached an agreement with former premier Jean Charest for long-term increases to narrow the gap. But Quebec is also the most heavily indebted province in the country, and the PQ, which brought down its first budget last week, wants the doctors to help out a bit by delaying the hike. Dr. Gaetan Barrette, president of the Federation des medecins specialistes du Quebec, said Thursday his members have been ringing his phone off the hook since Finance Minister Nicolas Marceau suggested earlier in the day that doctors should put off for as long as seven years their 9.2-per-cent average pay increase. The increase will cost the province $530 million this coming year and $540 million in 2014-2015, a total of $1.07 billion for the two years. Under the circumstances, their anger seems reasonable enough. The PQ also broke its promise to cancel a much-disliked health tax, and will increase it instead, to $1,000 from $200, plus a 1.75% surtax on high-income earners, meaning the doctors will be paying top rates to help fund an increase they wont be getting after all, if the province has its way. Albertas doctors are at the other end of the spectrum. Already the highest paid in the country, theyd been negotiating for a new contract for 20 months, only to have one imposed on them last week by Health Minister Fred Horne. They arent pleased, and say the deal isnt good enough. We were shocked, surprised. We were taken off guard, lamented Alberta Medical Association president Dr. Michael Giuffre.