Canada is facing a pressing issue in its healthcare system: a shortage of family doctors. Despite a population boom of over five million people in the last decade, the country has only added 167 medical residencies during the same period. This scarcity makes it increasingly challenging for Canadians to secure regular access to family physicians, with more than 6.5 million Canadians lacking such access.
Barriers Faced by International Medical Graduates
Foreign nationals trained as doctors, known as International Medical Graduates (IMGs), encounter hurdles in obtaining medical residencies in Canada. They often face quotas and biases favoring domestic graduates. Consequently, Canada’s healthcare system suffers from a shortage of primary care physicians.
Government Initiatives to Address the Issue
To mitigate this problem, the Canadian government is investing in foreign credential recognition. With up to $86 million allocated to this initiative, approximately 6,600 internationally educated health professionals will receive support to have their credentials recognized in Canada.
Reasons Behind the Lack of Family Doctors
Canada’s record-high population growth exacerbates the scarcity of family physicians. Declining interest in family medicine among Canadian medical graduates contributes to this issue. Furthermore, there has been minimal growth in medical residencies over the past decade, leading to an inadequate number of doctors to meet the growing population’s healthcare needs.
Steps Taken to Bridge the Gap
Provincial governments are taking action to expand medical school capacity. Ontario plans to add 449 postgraduate medical training spaces over the next five years, with 154 spaces expected to be available in 2024. Additionally, Prince Edward Island (PEI) will open a new medical school in 2025, while British Columbia (BC) intends to establish a new medical school in 2026 at Simon Fraser University’s Surrey campus.
Federal initiatives, such as category-based Express Entry draws, prioritize attracting foreign-trained doctors to Canada. Healthcare is one of the sectors emphasized in these draws, aiming to bolster the country’s medical workforce.
Canada’s healthcare system requires urgent attention to address the shortage of family doctors. By investing in foreign credential recognition, expanding medical school capacity, and attracting immigrant doctors through federal programs, Canada aims to ensure access to quality healthcare for its growing population.
These initiatives underscore the government’s commitment to enhancing the country’s healthcare infrastructure and meeting the evolving needs of Canadians.