There are numerous reasons for our GP shortage and long wait times. Canada performs poorly compared with other developed nations. We have fewer doctors, MRIs, hospital beds per capita yet spend more on health care than any other country with a universal health care.
The GP shortage is a crisis.
There are many foreign trained doctors who come to Canada hoping to practise. They first must pass an expensive exam – which some just cannot afford to do. Then there is the big hurdle. They must get a residency in a Canadian teaching hospital. For GPs it is a two-year-plus program.
For others it can be a four to six-year
program. I have met foreign trained doctors who have passed the exam but after two or three attempts to get a residency give up and go to another country.
Then there is a pay scale. GPs are the lowest paid specialty. Others can earn more than three times what a GP earns and work far few hours – maybe as much as 30% less! No wonder GPs leave their practice (my GP told me that the rent is horrendous). They become hospitalists, develop sub-specialties, such as skin scans for cancer, and also move into cosmetic medicine.
The low pay scale also is a deterrent for medical school graduates as most have student debt over $100,000, you have to set up a practice and you may be 30 or older.
I am happy to see that more than 50% of our medical school graduates are female. However, statistics show that female doctors work fewer hours over their lifetime compared to male doctors. The major reason is they have babies, take maternity leave, and in some cases move to part time to accommodate parental duties.
There has been some increase in medical school admissions but not nearly enough. It can be argued that it is scandalous that we accept foreign trained doctors who could be much needed in their home countries. However, thank goodness they are here!
We should also stop the idiocy of medical schools accepting middle aged students – in one case a 48-year-old who will spend three to four years in med school followed by two to five years in training. Add it up. How many years will this very expensive trainee actually spend practising?
There have been suggestions that we move to a different payment method and some doctors might prefer a salary of some sort. But salaries also mean vacation pay, rent and equipment provided, paid sick days, insurance coverage and pensions. However, per visit, it can be more expensive than the fee for service model. As someone who experienced the per capita GP model in the UK NHS I know that I get much better service from my Canadian GP. I just hope she continues her practice here in Kelowna.
Allison Budd, West Kelowna