From 2012 to 2016, the growth in the number of physicians was three times that of the Canadian population, according to data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI). Yet, this growth does not automatically translate into more accessible services, says CIHI.
Canada had more than 84,063 physicians in 2016, a number that has been steadily increasing over the past 10 years, according to CIHI.
Between 2012 and 2016, the increase in the number of physicians surpassed the growth rate of the Canadian population. The country currently has 230 doctors per 100,000 inhabitants.
Nova Scotia has the highest ratio among provinces and territories with 258 physicians per 100,000 population. Newfoundland and Labrador (248), Quebec (243), British Columbia (242) and Alberta (242) are the most affected. The province with the lowest proportion, with 187 physicians per 100,000 population, is Prince Edward Island.
Payments to physicians in Canada jumped 3.4% to a historic $25.7 billion.
In Quebec, remuneration has increased the most in five years. Total clinical payments to Quebec physicians in 2015-2016 reached $5.8 billion, 6.4% more than the year before.
But these increases do not automatically translate into more accessible services, says Ruolz Ariste of the Canadian Institute for Health Information.
“The ratio of doctor to population is only an indicator. In fact, it must be considered in the health system as a whole, “says Ariste.
Lawyer Jean-Pierre Ménard is also convinced that these increases do not come with more services.
There are two problems, it does not go hand in hand with what one is able to afford as a society, nor does it increase the accessibility to health care
Jean-Pierre Ménard believes that we must rethink the organization of medicine and rethink the way physicians are remunerated.
More women doctors in the country
The number of female physicians in the country increased by 21% from 2012 to 2016, compared with 6.1% for men. Over the same period, slightly more than half of the physicians under age 40 in Canada were women.
After Yukon, the proportion of female physicians is highest in Quebec (48.1%) and New Brunswick (39.4%), while Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan and Manitoba had the lowest percentages.
Half of all physicians in Canada practice family medicine.
In 2016, 2853 medical degrees were awarded by Canadian universities, an increase of 1.4% over the previous year. One-quarter of physicians in Canada had their PhD in medicine abroad. However, this percentage is much lower in Quebec, where only 9.7% of doctors in 2016 graduated from another country.