Recruiting doctors should always be ongoing.

The Medicine Hat News Friday, September 10, 1999

Letter to Editor

Recruiting doctors should always be ongoing

Recent media report on physician shortage has created considerable anxiety amongst the people of this Region. This naturally begs the question – what are we doing about it?

In the last two years, due to various reasons, we lost 12 physicians (7 family doctors and 5 specialists) but were able to gain 20 ( 8 family doctors and 12 specialists). A net gain of 8.

Current population to physician ratio in Canada is 550:1. In 1997, Prince Edward Island had a ratio of 830:1 compared to Alberta’s 640:1. In 1998, Alberta had a ratio of 620:1.

There are 100 physicians in our Region with a population of 85,000 ( ratio of 850:1). If my calculations are correct, then for our Region to achieve the national ratio of 550:1, we have to recruit about 75 doctors, or 50 doctors to achieve our provincial ratio of 620:1!

We know our Region does not need that many doctors. The national and provincial ratios do not take into consideration mal-distribution of physicians (rural vs. urban vs. metropolis). Two-thirds of Canada’s 56,000 physicians practice in Ontario!

Average age of our Region’s family physician is 44 and specialist is 45 (national average age 47 for all physicians).

Twenty seven percent of our doctors are under 40 (nationally 29 percent), 46 percent between 41-50, 22 percent between 51-60, and 5 percent are over the age of 60 (nationally 16 percent). In the next 5 to 10 years, we should expect 30 percent of our physicians slowing down or retiring.

Where are we going to find new doctors? At what price? Where is the funding going to come from? As we all know, there are no easy answers to these questions. Recruitment should be an ongoing process and our efforts will continue. Hopefully, we will be able to serve the people of our Region satisfactorily.

What are our current recruitment efforts? For Brooks, we are looking for 3 family physicians with special skills – anesthesia, obstetrics or other special interest. For Medicine Hat: 3 family physicians (hopefully with obstetrics), 1 internist, 1 anesthetist and a part-time pathologist.

Noorali Bharwani, FRCSC; FACS
Regional Chief of Staff
Palliser Health Authority

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