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Raymond J. de Souza: What Canada can learn from the health crisis Down Under

Australia is predicting a nationwide shortage of approximately 11,000 family doctors by 2032

SYDNEY, Australia — “Medicare on life support.” A massive shortage of general practitioners (GPs). Hospitals clogged as a result. Federal and provincial governments struggling to save a collapsing system. Billions in new spending may only be a Band-Aid.


News about the latest medicare deal offered by Ottawa to the provinces? No. Right crisis, wrong country. Actually, the same crisis in two countries, Canada and Australia. The latter’s experience might mean Canada’s crisis is worse than we think.


“Medicare is a beloved institution,” begins a recent in-depth report in the Sydney Morning Herald. “Ask Australians what makes them proud of their country, and many are fiercely protective of its promise you can access the health care you need — whether it be surgery or a doctor’s appointment — regardless of your income bracket.


“But Australia’s universal health-care scheme is no longer fit for purpose. In fact, Health Minister Mark Butler, who oversees the scheme, says it’s in the worst shape of its life.”


The same applies in Canada, though our ministers do not speak so bluntly.


“General practice, which is the backbone of our health-care system, is in a truly parlous state,” Butler said.


Australia’s crisis in GPs — usually called “family doctors” in Canada — gives us some sense of how difficult it will be to solve Canada’s GP crisis. The Royal Australian College of General


Practitioners found that in 2019, only one in 11 new doctors opted to be a GP. By 2032, the college predicts a nationwide shortage of some 11,000 GPs, nearly 30 per cent of the entire GP workforce.


“Not enough medical graduates, young doctors, are choosing general practice as their career because they see the difficulty of working as a general practitioner. We’ve got to turn this around,” Butler said.


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