Medical specialists still needed in northwestern Ont.
And he said the situation the report captures will only get worse, because medical schools will continue to graduate specialists at current levels for the next few years at least. I think we overshot the mark, said Lewis, who was not involved in this study. Related Doctor salaries have shot up 30% in past decade over fears of physician shortage, brain drain to U.S.: report I think that there is no question that almost doubling medical school enrolments since the late 1990s combined with easier paths to licensure for international medical grads was the wrong thing to do. We didnt think it through as a country. The study was conducted for and released by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons. The principal investigator was Danielle Frechette, executive director for health systems innovation for the college. Frechette said the organization, which sets standards for physician education in the country, had been hearing anecdotes about rising numbers of unemployed doctors, so decided to assess the situation. The ensuing report, released Thursday, is based on a survey of over 4,000 newly graduated doctors and interviews with about 50 people knowledgeable about the situation deans of medical schools, hospital CEOs and the like. Were hoping that our research shows that this is not a simple issue. And that we shouldnt have any knee-jerk reactions, otherwise we will perpetuate this boom-bust cycle that weve been in. Its like Groundhog Day The report paints a grim picture but does not recommend ways to fix it; that was not the mandate. The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons is convening a national summit in February to explore ideas for developing a co-ordinated approach to planning health system workforce needs, Frechette said. She noted a fix will not be easy.
(Nicole Ireland/CBC) “Sometimes [specialists are] unable to find a position in a locality that they want,” Kennedy said. “So I think we really have to look at the distribution of physicians [geographically].” ‘Advantage’ in northwestern Ontario Kennedy said NOSMis accomplishing its goalto graduate much-needed physicians and specialists to work at the hospital and in the region. “We had challenges with human resources for a good number of years,” he said. “We have increased medical student enrolmentby … 40 or 50 per cent over the past eight years, because we’ve had such shortages,” he said. “It’s playing to our advantage in northwestern Ontario because we are able to recruit top, talented doctors [who], at one point … always wanted to stay in an academic centre in eastern Ontario.” Strasser saidthe Royal College report shows the need for better medical workforce planning at the national level to ensure doctors are trained in the specialties where there is projected demand,and available to work in the geographic areas where they are needed. “It’s really looking to plan for and ensure the supply of the right physicians with the right skills in the right places … across Canada.” Kennedy said right now, Thunder Bay Regional is well-staffed in some specialties like neurosurgery and orthopedicsurgery, but the hospital needs more emergency physicians and psychiatrists. It is also recruiting vascular surgeons and anesthetists. Cautions against ‘knee-jerk reaction’ Both Kennedy and Strasseremphasized that, even thougha certain specialty area may not have vacancies right now, it can change by the time a current medical student is ready to practise. They said specialists may retire or move elsewhere, or hospitalresources maychange. For example, if hospitals have the money to open up more operating rooms, they could accommodate more surgeons.
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B.C. medical specialists struggle to find work
In B.C., the number of unemployed specialists was slightly higher than the national average at 16.5 per cent. The findings are counter-intuitive, given patient complaints about accessing timely care and surgery. “Never in my medical career have I even heard of unemployed doctors, until now, so this comes as a real surprise,” said Dr. William Cunningham, president of the B.C. Medical Association. Cunningham has been practising medicine since 1986 and works in a hospital emergency department on Vancouver Island. The report doesn’t address the issue of whether there are too many specialists for the Canadian health care system, in which operating room time and budgets are fixed. But it makes it clear that doctors are competing for resources. The report also pinpoints reasons why newly certified specialists are having trouble finding work: older doctors are delaying retirement; established surgeons are protecting their precious (often only one day a week) operating room time so young doctors aren’t getting the hospital/surgical positions they covet; and a lack of cohesion in medical resource planning and coordination between medical schools, governments and hospital or health care authorities. As well, there are relatively new categories of health professionals encroaching on doctors’ territory, such as advanced practice nurses, nurse practitioners and physician assistants. Respondents to the survey were graduates of Canada’s 17 medical schools and/or Canadian residency training programs in fields such as cardiac surgery, neurosurgery, nuclear medicine, ophthalmology, radiation oncology, urology, critical care, gastroenterology, general surgery, hematology and medical microbiology. The report does not include data on family doctors. While about one in five specialists or subspecialists said they are having challenges finding jobs, another 22 per cent of newly certified specialists said they are taking locum positions or other various part-time positions. Locums assume another doctor’s duties during holidays or extended absences.