The most significant healthcare issue in Canada

Canada being one of the most developed countries in the world has one of the best health care systems around too. However, the system also has its limitations. The most significant issue affecting the future of health care delivery in Canada is the shortage of physicians.

The severity of the issue can be understood from the fact that The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found the doctor population ratio to be 2.2 doctors for one thousand people. These figures show up despite the fact that 25% of the doctors currently practicing in Canada were trained in other countries like India.

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While there are urban areas with an abundance of doctors and rural areas with a scarcity, there is an overall need for doctors in Canada.

A number of factors contribute to the problem. The main cause is that doctors today prefer to do their MDs, qualify as specialists and then get down to practicing. The time taken to get the desired qualification increases the number of qualified but not available physicians. Another factor is the migration of doctors.

While there is a reduction in influx of foreign doctors, on which Canada relies heavily, it is coupled with the out flux of Canadian educated doctors to other countries, particularly the United States of America. A decrease in the number of enrollments into medical school has also been reported. Yet another aspect that needs to be considered is the number of doctors retiring annually. All these factors together result in the ongoing crisis.

Various steps have been identified to resolve the issue. Corrective measures focus on two main areas of concern- first, increasing the supply of physicians and second, retaining qualified physicians. Increasing the supply of doctors includes increasing the number of potential doctors by a careful and planned expansion of the medical schools, facilitating access of rural students to medical schools, encouraging more foreign doctors to practice in Canada by simplifying visa regulations and shortening the course from four to three years (as is in the University of Ontario).

Better human resource planning will have to be initiated to help retain doctors leaving Canada for other nations.

The crisis will become even more serious as there will be a growth in population each year. Its severity will intensify manifold with the shortage becoming even worse. The issue is a critical one as it puts the well-being of an entire nation at stake and hence needs to be settled at the earliest.