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Canada's Physician Shortage: Effects, Projections, and Solutions

Type: Research Studies
Date Published: August 28, 2006
Research Topics:
In recent years, Canadians and their governments have been paying a significant amount of attention to the supply of physicians in Canada. For example, the Canadian Medical Forum (an association of national medical organizations representing physicians in Canada) have undertaken two national examinations of physician supply, the second of which was undertaken in partnership with governments and other medical professional associations. Reports and comments on the issue of physician supply also appear regularly in the nation's news media. The Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada also discussed the supply of physicians in Canada at length in its final report.

Most discussions and studies have come to the conclusion that there are too few physicians practicing in Canada today. That conclusion is supported by the available evidence on Canadians' unmet health care needs and the relative supply of physicians in this country. For example, in 2003 more than 1.2 million Canadians were unable to find a regular physician. Statistics also show that Canada had many fewer physicians per capita in 2002 than most other developed nations that have universal access health care insurance programs.

This Fraser Alert looks at three dimensions of Canada's physician shortage. It begins with a short review of the literature examining whether or not a greater supply of physicians provides benefits other than easier access to care. The next section considers how Canada's physician supply has evolved over time and what factors have helped determine that evolution. The final section closes with a consideration of what is ultimately driving the physician shortage in Canada and provides a sensible solution to the problem.
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