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Ontario’s Heading For Another Family Doctor Shortage

This is the follow up blog to my last one, originally published in the Huffington Post on June 13, 2017. Reprinted here so that I can keep track of my old blogs, and also to once again point out how warnings of a crisis in Family Medicine were ignored for years.


The Barer-Stoddart report. Ask any physician of a certain age and the immediate reaction is likely to be disparaging. Written in 1991, it purported to help chart the course of the physician workforce into the 21st century.

While it’s true that much of the report was ignored by the Ontario government of Bob “Super Elite” Rae, it’s still widely remembered for suggesting that the number of physicians in Ontario needed to be cut by 10 per cent. To accomplish this, medical school enrollment was slashed in the early 1990s.

Given that the population of Ontario continued to grow and age, the result was completely predictable. A massive doctor shortage (particularly in family medicine) hit the province at the end of the decade. It has taken the last 15 years to come close to correcting that. We’re not there yet (we still have fewer doctors per capita than Mongolia), but we were improving.

Alas, Ontario Health Minister “Unilateral Eric” Hoskins and Deputy Health Minister Bob Bellwere unable to remember the old saying, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”


Last week I blogged about how Hoskins and Bell need to support family medicine. Because they are not doing so, many physicians who graduate from family medicine residencies are not starting comprehensive family practices. Instead, they are doing things like hospitalist work, sports medicine and even medical marijuana clinics.


However, the situation is even worse than I thought. It was pointed out to me after my blog was published that the number of medical students applying to family medicine programs has dropped considerably this year. In Canada, to become a practicing physician, you first have to graduate from medical school, then do a residency (essentially a training program) in the specialty of your choice. To choose a residency, you apply to CARMs — which is a Canada-wide program that matches medical school graduates to the residency of their choice.






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