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November 12, 2007

Government malpractice to blame


If you're one of the five million Canadians without a family doctor, you may we wondering how such a thing could happen.

How, in a prosperous country like Canada, could we be short thousands of physicians?

Health Canada pegs the doctor shortage at 5,800 by 2010. But because many of today's doctors aren't willing to work the gruelling hours of their predecessors, practically speaking the number could be more than 10,000.

Ontario is feeling the crunch with one million so-called "orphan" patients, including 130,000 children with no family doctor, plus a growing shortage of specialists.

It also has the third-worst doctor-patient ratio in the country (174 MDs per 100,000 patients) compared to, for example, 191 per 100,000 in Alberta and 180 per 100,000 for Manitoba.

Nova Scotia comes in first at 219 doctors per 100,000 population, P.E.I. the worst at 149.

But every province is feeling the pinch and if you're wondering how it happened, you can attribute it to "government know-how," because this was a shortage deliberately manufactured by politicians and bureaucrats.

In the early 1990s, provincial health ministers, alarmed by the rising cost of medicare, arbitrarily decided the problem was Canada had too many doctors (as opposed to, say, health care bureaucrats) and seized on a plan to reduce costs by deliberately reducing enrolments in med schools. Foreign medical students were also discouraged from practising in Canada.

Prophetic warnings from the Association of Canadian Medical Colleges that reducing the number of medical students would lead to a doctor shortage within a decade, which is exactly what happened, were ignored.

In one example of central planning run amok, the then NDP government in Ontario announced it would pay the University of Toronto up to $10 million annually not to produce as many doctors.

And the scary thing is many of the same politicians and bureaucrats who created that disaster, are today the very same people telling us they have a plan to reduce medical wait times.