Manitoba has the second-lowest number of doctors per capita, a national report revealed Monday.
A new report by the Canadian Institute for Health Information shows the number of physicians per capita is decreasing and well behind the national average.
Manitoba had 215 doctors per 100,000 residents in 2022, a figure well below the national average of 247 doctors and the second lowest rate in Canada.
It will take 246 more physicians to reach the national average, and 781 more to become the best in Canada.
“Manitoba’s doctor shortage, which already is at record high, is getting even bigger,” Dr. Michael Boroditsky with Doctors Manitoba said at a news conference Monday afternoon.
Internationally, Canada ranks 6th lowest out of 31 monitored nations, and Manitoba falls dead last among all of them.
“These physicians shortages are making it harder for Manitoba uncertified family to doctors or to access specialist care. This shortage is a significant concern on its own. But it’s even more concerning if we look at our local data,” Boroditsky said.
In a member survey by Doctors Manitoba, 51 per cent of responding physicians said they plan to retire, leave Manitoba or reduce their clinical hours in the next three years. The survey showed 78% of respondents cited systemic or institutional issues as their reason for leaving or reducing their practice.
Ten per cent of those surveyed felt valued by the government, 17 per cent by Shared Health by their regional health authority and only 35 per cent felt appreciated by the College of Physicians & Surgeons of Manitoba.
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Boroditsky suggested the shortage or issues doctors face aren’t new, nor were they borne out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Manitoba has been on a downward trend for I would say, greater than a decade with resource issues for physicians,” he said.
Manitoba’s rank on physicians per capita has declined over the last two decades, from fourth highest in 2002 to now classed as second lowest.
Boroditsky said while the figures may be alarming, a number of steps have been that attempt to respond to advice from physicians about how to reverse the shortage.
The doctor pointed to expanding physician training, penning new funding agreements for physician services and reducing administrative burdens on doctors as salves for the burnout which could increase retention.
“I’m also optimistic about commitments Manitoba as new government has made including adding 400 more doctors, new recruitment incentives, and perhaps more importantly, a significant investment in team-based care and physicians clinics,” Boroditsky said.
Yet despite the promises, Boroditsky said even if the province exceeds its highest-ever annual recruitment — which he believes was once 80 in one year — over the next few years, that figure would barely bring the province up to the national average.
“We just need more, and we need a strategy to move forward. We need a strategy to increase those numbers in the next handful of years. We can’t wait 10 or 15 more years for this.”
Newly-minted Health Minister Uzoma Asagwara said the NDP government will listen to what physicians say they need to address shortages.
“People have been making very clear and certainly now continuing to make clear that the culture in health care needs to change. It’s so important that the workplace environments are healthy and affirming and dignified,” they said.
“It’s important to note the workplace culture and positive leadership needs to be role model at the top. So having a government in place that truly respects health-care workers makes a difference.”
In August, Manitoba physicians ratified a new deal which saw $268 million more in funding over four years for to stabilize medical services and recruit and retain more doctors.
— with files from Daisy Woelk
Doctors Manitoba on NDP healthcare promises
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