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Canadian doctors plan to cut back on their hours or stop working completely

January 10, 2008

A significant number of Canadian doctors plan to cut back on their hours or stop working completely over the next two years, according to a new survey of nearly 20,000 Canadian physicians.The survey appears to back warnings of a worsening doctor shortage: more than 4,000 physicians plan to stop practising within the next two years, the data suggest.

In addition, 35 per cent of doctors who responded to the census survey said they plan to cut back on their hours over the next two years. Doctors work an average 52 hours per week and provide an extra 130 hours per month of on-call duty, the survey shows.

“We don’t have enough doctors, now and we’re not producing enough to fill the void,” says Dr. Brian Day, president of the Canadian Medical Association.

The survey also reveals a wide split in how doctors rate access to care, and the increasing feminization of medicine.

Most doctors in Canada are happy, but admit to being frustrated by paperwork and say they’re feeling squeezed by expectations and sicker patients.

Of the new MDs under 35 replacing retiring baby boomers, more than half – 55 per cent – are women.

“Women in their child-bearing years tend to work fewer hours and the survey bears that out,” says Dr. Ruth Wilson, a family physician in Kingston, Ont. and president of the College of Family Physicians of Canada.

“Our system has got to accommodate the fact that if lots of women are coming into medicine, we’re going to need even more doctors to meet the needs of Canadians.”

There’s also a generational effect going on: Younger doctors – men and women – are working fewer hours.

Overall, the 2007 National Physician Survey found 75 per cent of physicians are “very or somewhat” satisfied with their professional lives, versus 17 per cent who said they were “very or somewhat” dissatisfied. When asked about their relationships with their patients, 83 per cent said they were very or somewhat satisfied.

But a significant proportion remains frustrated by system funding (57 per cent said it was a barrier to providing care to their patients), paperwork, and not having test or relevant patient information available when needed.

The data show a split in how long doctors say it takes to get their patients into care, including the top five priority areas for reduced wait times.

For instance, 65 per cent of family doctors and specialists say access to cardiac care is “excellent, very good or good,” while 16 per cent call it “fair or poor.”

Similarly, 70 per cent of family doctors rate access to cancer care as good to excellent, but a significant minority of 19 per cent – nearly one in five – calls it fair to poor.

There was no regional breakdown.

“Sixty-five per cent sounds good, but what if you or one of your relatives were one of the 20 per cent,” says Day. “We should be demanding the very best in Canada.”

Fifty-five per cent of family doctors rated access to orthopedic surgeons as fair to poor. Day says hip and knee replacement surgery waits have gone down but waits for shoulder and ankle surgery have gone up.

Access to emergency or urgent care is worse than it was in 2004, when the first survey was conducted. And more than half of family doctors rated access to ophthalmologists and psychiatrists as fair to poor, especially for psychiatrists.

Half (49 per cent) rated waits for CTs, MRIs and other advanced diagnostic tests as fair to poor.

Only 37 per cent of specialists said they could see a patient with an urgent problem within one day. Another 27 per cent said urgent cases have to wait up to a week to be seen.

Many doctors planning to cut hours or quit []

2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 12, 2008 8:34 pm

    With 4,000 doctors slated for retirement in 2 years, finding a physician, care could be problematic. Read more…

  2. May 25, 2010 8:24 am

    hi… i am a doctor from Nepal.I am thinking of coming to Canada for work. i am just a graduate with no masters degree in medicine. I hopefully wish to get some valuable advice from you.Kindly if you could help us

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