What pan-Canadian licensure can do for a workforce in crisis
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 has been calling on governments to implement pan-Canadian licensure as an important first step to better health care, most recently at a meeting of Atlantic health ministers in January 2023.
And momentum for physician mobility is growing. Atlantic premiers have announced new regional licensure for doctors, with an Atlantic Physician Register to come by May 2023. Ontario is working on a bill for health workers registered anywhere in Canada to be eligible for immediate practice in the province.
The CMA welcomes these efforts, as well as the work of provincial/territorial medical associations and registrars, and continues to advocate for pan-Canadian licensure to benefit patients and providers everywhere.
How does the CMA define pan-Canadian licensure?
The ability for physicians with full licences to practise independently without restrictions or for medical resident trainees registered in any Canadian jurisdiction to practise or train in any other Canadian jurisdiction without having to acquire more than one licence or pay additional licensing fees.
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.