Doctor numbers on rise
TORONTO—The number of doctors in Canada is at an all-time high and payment for their services has continued to rise in lock-step—hitting a jaw-dropping $22 billion last year, the latest figures show.
Canada had more than 75,000 physicians working in 2012, up almost four percent from the previous year, says a report by the Canadian Institute for Health Information.
Canadian doctors were paid, an average, about $328,000 before taxes and expenses in 2011-12—a five per cent increase over 2010-11.
The average gross clinical payment per physician ranged from $258,000 in Nova Scotia to $376,000 in Ontario.
While most doctors are paid through fee-for-service agreements with provinces and territories, alternative forms of payment increasingly are being used for reimbursement.
Some physicians receive an annual salary as part of a team practice, for instance, or are paid by the hour or day for providing a basket of services.
Last year, almost 28.7 percent, or $6.3 billion, of the overall $22 billion in payments came through alternative modes of payment, said Walter Feeney, program lead for CIHI’s physician databases.
“To put that in perspective, 10 years ago, alternative payments made up about 10 percent of overall clinical payment and now we’re up to about 30 percent,” he not yesterday from Ottawa.
The report suggests physician numbers likely will continue to rise in the coming years, in part because more doctors are graduating from medical schools.
Last year, more than 2,600 new Canadian MDs earned their white coats—a jump of almost five percent from 2011 and 25 percent higher than five years ago.
The country’s physician workforce also was swelled by growth in the number of doctors with international medical degrees, who now make up one-quarter of Canada’s doctors, Feeney said.
Family doctors continue to account for about half of the workforce while specialists make up the other half.
And more and more, it is female practitioners who are checking blood pressure and writing out prescriptions in primary-care offices or wielding scalpels in operating rooms, added Feeney.
Between 2008 and 2012, the number of female physicians leaped by almost 24 percent while the number of male doctors rose by 10 percent.
Last year, about 37 percent of doctors were women, compared with 35 percent four years earlier.
Women made up 42 percent of family medicine physicians last year and 32 percent of specialists.
The report also found that since 2008, the number of doctors working in rural Canada had gone up five times faster than the rural population.
There were almost 6,400 physicians practising in non-urban areas last year.
“More doctors working in rural areas may be a sign that Canadians’ access to physician services in rural areas may be improving,” said Geoff Ballinger, CIHI’s manager of physician information.
“Even so, it is important to ask not just how many doctors are needed, but where they are most needed and in what areas of specialty,” he stressed.