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Posted in Child Care on 7th July 2011

Canadian Health Care in jeopardy?
Canada, theoretically, has a very functional health care system, free and universal health care for all, with government funding. However in reality there are factors restricting the longevity of universal health care that are beyond our control. radical change has begun. Fifty-two per cent of doctors under age 35 are now women. And the majority of students at nearly all of Canada’s 17 medical schools are female. At some, the number is huge – 66 per cent at Université de Montreal, and 70 per cent at Université Laval in Quebec City. By 2015, women will make up 40 per cent of the total physician workforce. Peter Coyte, a professor of health economics at the University of Toronto, predicts this influx of women will contribute to a crisis in health care. “It’s going to have a profound impact on the gap between supply and demand,” he cautions. “It will get worse before it gets better.”

It’s been proven repeatedly – female doctors “will not work the same hours or have the same lifespan of contributions to the medical system as males,” says Dr. Brian Day, president of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA). Family duties are at least partly to blame. Day’s own wife and his sister-in-law, both trained physicians, haven’t practised since having kids 10 years ago. Despite their demanding careers, women are still “given the bigger proportion of child care, housekeeping and elder care,” says Dr. Janet Dollin, president of the Federation of Medical Women of Canada. But this pressure comes with a price. Burnout – the workplace exhaustion to which females are particularly susceptible – drives many women out of medicine altogether.

Today, five million Canadians are without a family doctor. A 2005 survey found that just 23 per cent of Canadians were able to see a physician the same day they needed one – placing this country last among the six studied, including the U.S., Britain and Australia. Canada’s doctor-patient ratio is among the worst of any industrialized nation: with just 2.2 physicians per thousand people, it ranks 24th out of 28 OECD countries (well below the average of three). And among the G8 countries, Canada ranks dead last when it comes to physician supply.

It’s going to get worse. The aging population – one in four Canadians will be 65 or older by 2056, compared to 13 per cent now – will put huge strains on the health care system, and little is being done to address the doctor shortage that already exists. The CMA estimates it would take 26,000 more doctors, right now, to bring Canada up to the OECD average. Medical schools aren’t graduating enough students to keep up with demand, and Day estimates that 1,500 Canadians are studying medicine in other countries. Already, one in nine doctors who graduated in 2006 practises in the U.S.,

When forced to choose between work and home, women physicians are more often opting for the latter – leaving a clan of “orphan patients” behind. They flood emergency rooms for care. Or they ignore whatever ails them until they can no longer. It’s been established that people without a family doctor should expect to be sicker – and cost the health care system more money – than those with a dedicated physician. An acclaimed report, first published in 1994 in The Lancet, examined how the relationship between family doctors and patients influences individual health as well as a country’s health care costs. It concluded that regular family physician care results in a less medicated, more satisfied population.

“There will come a time when our health care will hit the wall,” Baker says. “And we’re not far from that point.”

There is evidence that doctor-patient relationships improve with female physicians. They tend to be better communicators, according to the Montreal report, and create stronger bonds with their patients, which in turn leads to greater patient satisfaction overall. “Women listen in a different way,” agrees Dollin. “They try to treat patients as partners.” And that leads to a more complex view of health. Female doctors take a holistic, prevention-oriented approach, the study continues. The conversation between a woman physician and her patient, says Dollin, is “a more emotionally focused discussion.”

Canada’s health planners can’t ignore the fact that the doctor shortage is about to get worse. The country will soon have an older population than ever before – and a female-dominated medical workforce unwilling to work the hours its predecessors did. Day also warns that more Canadian physicians may be drawn to the U.S. if the presidential candidates keep their promise of delivering doctors to the 47 million Americans who are uninsured today. Between 1993 and 2004, roughly 4,000 Canadian physicians went south.

What do you think Canada should do to put some pressure off of the unstable health care system?

Best answer(s):

Answer by Canadiangirl
I love the fact you’re placing all the blame for some problems in our health care system on women doctors. I have a women doctor and she works very hard and is very devoted to her patients.

It is also not the fault of women doctors for the doctor shortage. It was the shortsightedness of the gov’t to restrict the applications to medical school that caused this problem. Also, women doctors cannot prevent their collegues to practice in other countries, it is the individual doctor’s decision.

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