Friday, February 04, 2005

READER RESPONSE -- From the Canadian Medical Association web site

Posted by Craig Westover | 1:33 AM |  

This press release from the Canadian Medical Association confirms a lot of what Dr. Lee Kurisko said about his experience in the Canadian system, which was the basis of my Wednesday Pioneer Press column.

Health Council Sounds Alarm over Health Human Resources Shortages

Ottawa, January 27, 2005 - The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) pointed today to the first-ever Report of the Health Council of Canada as further proof of the need for a concerted response to the critical shortage of health care professionals and the inadequate response by governments at all levels.

In its comprehensive examination of the health care system, the Council states: "… there are areas where reforms need to be accelerated. Of note are: Health human resources - nurses, doctors, pharmacists, technicians, technologists and others need to be trained … in sufficient numbers to meet future demands. This is an urgent priority. Without sufficient providers of care working together, all other efforts will flounder. (…)"

"We welcome the findings of this report, which reaffirm what the CMA has been saying for many years: Canada has a dire health human resources (HHR) problem, we need more doctors, nurses, technicians, therapists, and other health care professionals," said Dr. Albert Schumacher, President of the CMA.

"There is a 'perfect storm' brewing, where the rising health care demands of a growing and aging society collide with a shrinking supply of doctors and other professionals. This perfect storm threatens to wipe out any and all efforts to make the system work better," said Dr. Schumacher.

Here are the facts:

Canada ranks 24th out of 30 OECD countries in terms of access to physician;

The OECD also predicts that, by 2016, Canada will have the worst shortage in nurses of all OECD nations, with a shortfall of up 31% compared to demand;

Due to the current nursing shortage, Canadian nurses are working an estimated 300,000 hours of overtime per week;

Close to 4 million Canadians (one in six) don't have access to a family physician;
25% of Quebec residents don't have access to a family physician;

60% of physicians are limiting the number of new patients they see, or are not taking new patients at all;

3,800 physicians plan to retire in the next 2 years-more than double the current rate of retirement;

26% of physicians plan to reduce the number of hours they work compared with only 4% who plan to increase the number of hours.

After many years of calling for the creation of such a body, the CMA was encouraged when the Health Council of Canada was established in December 2003. The CMA considers the Council to be an essential tool to ensure the First Ministers' Accord on Health Care Renewal leads to action.

The Council's first report provides an overview of the state of health care services throughout Canada. In addition to examining a variety of initial reforms already underway, the report addresses such issues as healthy living, pharmaceuticals management, electronic health records, and home care. It stresses the need to accelerate our collective response to HHR and other challenges.

The CMA has pointed to the fact that while Canada needs to graduate at least 2,500 new doctors every year to meet the needs of Canadians, only an estimated 1,773 will graduate this year. Just as importantly, the average age of Canadian physicians is 49 years, while 30 percent are 55 or older. Some 3,800 Canadian doctors are expected to retire in the next two years.

"We have presented short-, medium-, and long-term solutions to the issue of shortages in health human resources and some of these have been acknowledged and a few have been addressed by governments. What we need most, however, is a pan-Canadian strategy to ensure we have enough medical professionals in all parts of the country," said Dr. Schumacher.

In the coming weeks the Association will also be presenting further details on its ongoing project to address the lengthy waits experienced by Canadians seeking health care services.