Millions of Canadians still don’t have a family physician, even though we have doctors than ever
The number of doctors in Canada is growing almost three times as fast as the population, and yet many Canadians, especially those living in rural areas, don’t have a family doctor.
According to a new report from the Canadian Institute of Health Information (CIHI), the number of physicians in Canada grew by 12.5% between 2014 and 2018, while the population grew by 4.6%. In 2018, the CIHI counted nearly 90,000 physicians nationwide, which trasnlates to 241 doctors per 100,000 residents—the highest per capita number ever— and of those 241, 121 are family doctors.
According to Statistics Canada, 4.8 million Canadians don’t have a family doctor, most of them in Quebec, British Columbia, and Saskatchewan. Quebec has the highest number without a doctor—25.6% of the population. The problem is, in part, that 92% of the country’s doctors work in urban areas, leaving rural areas underserved; the report calls for incentives to be offered to enourage physicians to relocate.
Another problem, according to the CIHI report, is that today’s doctors tend to see fewer patients than physicians used to. In Quebec this past summer, the provincial government began offering bonuses to doctors who accept more patients. Doctors who see a total 750 patients in a year will get an extra $7,500, while those who see 1,000 will get a $15,000 bonus; bonuses double for doctors who take on seniors and people with chronic illnesses or mental health disorders.
“Every year over the last 12 years, the supply of doctors in Canada has grown faster than the population,” CIHI information manager Geoff Ballinger said in a statement. “This data can assist government health planners in understanding and aligning where physicians are with where there is the greatest need for them.”