In Canada, medical practice is restricted to the province or territory in which a physician is licensed. Other than a few exceptions, practising in a different province or territory means a lengthy application process, sometimes months long, and thousands of dollars in fees.
A single licensing system would have many benefits.
It could help alleviate the pressure on the medical workforce serving patients in rural and remote communities by making physicians more mobile. It would allow for more efficient responses to delivery of health care, including in crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic. It would also support virtual care across provincial and territorial borders, providing greater continuity and more timely access.
Mobility would also provide urgently needed support for physician work-life balance, and health and wellness, potentially improving retention rates by making it easier for doctors and hospitals to fill locums for holidays, and parental and educational leaves.
“It’s no wonder physicians have such high rates of burnout. There’s no such thing as a healthy work-life balance if you’re constantly faced with the decision to either cancel patients and feel like you’ve abandoned them, burden an already overworked colleague with squeezing them in, cancel your vacation (yet again), or show up to work sick and tired.”
Dr. Jordan Vollrath, family physician in AB
The CMA is also planning further outreach and engagement on pan-Canadian licensure with First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities, provincial and territorial medical associations, as well as rural, remote and underserved populations.
How big an issue is access to care?
4.6 million Canadians do not have primary care
Patients are having to turn to walk-in clinics and emergency departments. The resulting increased wait times and emergency department overload are overwhelming other parts of the health care system.
Source: Statistics Canada
Only 8% of medical professionals support 18% of Canadians who live in rural or remote communities
Some communities, like Hay River, NWT, have to regularly close emergency departments for indeterminate periods due to staff shortages.
Physicians are under unprecedented pressure: 53% report a high level of burnout
System inflexibility — including the current licensure model and the barriers it creates for locums to support an improved physician work-life balance — is a big part of the problem.