A comprehensive report released by the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) reveals a reduction in the number of patients in the province without a doctor for the first time in more than five years.
While there are positive trends in many areas, the report highlights the presence of an aging physician cohort and an on going departure of physicians to other provinces. Ontario lost 188 doctors to other Canadian jurisdictions ? a 24 percent increase since 2003 ? resulting in the first net inter-provincial loss of physicians from Ontario in recent memory.
?Retaining physicians currently practicing here and encouraging physicians close to retirement to continue practicing is integral to our success in stopping the drain of doctors,? said Dr. David Bach, President of the OMA. ?Other provinces are doing a better job at retaining physicians ? we must put in place a physician retention program that makes Ontario competitive with other provinces.?
According to the report entitled ?Physician Human Resources: OMA Position on Physician Workforce Policy and Planning Revisited,? the number of patients in Ontario without a doctor has declined from 1.2 million in 2005 to one million this year, the first decline since the OMA started tracking this information in 1999. Considering the 2005 Physician Shortage report had estimated 1.35 million Ontarians could be without a physician by 2006, this decline is all the more significant. The decreasing numbers of patients without doctors comes in large part due to measures put in place by the provincial government in recent years and is a reflection of doctors working harder to care for more patients.
However, the report reveals that Ontario is still short in excess of 2,000 physicians and this continues to have an impact across the health system. Long wait times for specialist consultations, Emergency Room overcrowding, and a large patient population without access to a family doctor are just some of the difficulties patients face.