Canada’s major medical organizations have committed to ongoing efforts to solve the unemployment and underemployment problems facing some newly trained physicians, particularly in hospital-based specialties such as orthopedic surgery.
The commitment was contained in a joint statement issued following the National Physician Employment Summit, a mid-February gathering in Ottawa that attracted more than 100 representatives from medical organizations and governments. The meeting, organized by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, did not produce any specific commitments for short-term change, but there was strong support for creating a pan-Canadian strategy to match physician numbers with population needs.
It also produced a commitment to have the Royal College coordinate and collect all relevant information regarding specialty-specific data, and for delegates to meet again in the fall to exchange best practices and coordinate efforts.
Attendees also urged continued funding for the Physician Resource Planning Task Force, a group supported by the federal/provincial/territorial Committee on Health Workforce that is working to determine the right number, mix and distribution of physicians required to meet society’s needs.
The joint statement said physician unemployment and underemployment are complex issues with numerous root causes, including limited planning capabilities and data on population needs.
“In an era of lengthy wait times and budget limitations, our health system needs to maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of all health professionals,” it said. “This commitment is a vital first step toward ensuring that Canada always has the right number of physicians practising in the right areas, supported by the necessary health care resources to meet patients’ needs.”
The summit was prompted in part by new Royal College research documenting the pervasive nature of the employment issues in some medical and surgical specialties.
In the summit’s opening address, Brigadier-General Jean-Robert Bernier, surgeon general and commander of the Canadian Forces Health Services Group, documented the Forces’ success in meeting the health needs of a variety of populations around the globe, often under trying conditions. He said it would be an “inexcusable tragedy” if Canada could not work successfully to plan for future health care needs and the physician distribution required to meet those needs.
Prior to the meeting, Danielle Fréchette, meeting co-chair and director of health policy and external relations for the Royal College, said that “the summit’s not meant to try and fix the problem for the doctors, it's really about how can we come together to serve the needs of the public.”
CMA President Louis Hugo Francescutti said the deliberations will be considered successful if they ultimately result in creation of a healthier Canadian population.
The joint statement was made on behalf of the Steering Committee of National Physician Employment Summit, a group created by the CMA, Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada, Canadian Nurses Association, Canadian Association of Internes and Residents, College of Family Physicians of Canada, Canadian Orthopaedic Residents Association, Canadian Urological Association, Fédération des médecins résidents du Québec, Federation of Medical Regulatory Authorities of Canada and the Royal College.