Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Canadian Doctor Shortage

Interesting article by Nadeem Esmail on National Review, discussing the problem of a physician shortfall in Canada.
This sorry tale begins in the early 1970s. At that time, Canadians enjoyed one of the highest physician-to-population ratios in the developed world. It was a good time for physician training in Canada. In response to a 1964 federal-government commission’s call for a doubling of Canada’s capacity to train doctors, four new medical schools had been built and twelve others expanded significantly. In light of recent evidence showing that higher physician-to-population ratios are related to lower mortality rates, such generous access to physicians was good for Canadians. . . .

The original intention to maintain a physician-to-population ratio around the 2-per-1,000 mark may well be short of what is actually required — at the very least it is well short of the physician-to-population ratios in other developed countries. In addition, much of Canada’s past discussion surrounding physician supply has ignored the dynamics of physician supply, including increasing future retirements. . . .

Other unintended consequences are foregone health benefits from a larger physician population and reduced access to health-care services. Access in Canada has gotten to the point where an estimated 1.2 million Canadians were unable to find a regular physician in 2003, and where long waits for medically necessary treatment are alarmingly common. The average wait time for non-urgent medical services hovered near the 18-week mark in 2005.

There is a lot of useful information in that article. If I quoted anymore, you'd have no reason to go read it yourself. And you should. Even if you disagree with some of the author's conclusions, that government control over health care is the culprit, for example, the situation Canada has found itself in is not enviable.

An interesting read for those who take an interest in the medical field.

3 comments:

Steve the Troll said...

Anyone who has ever taken a course on international healthcare systems could tell you that socialist healthcare systems like those found in Scandinavia are significantly better than both the US and Canadian systems. Yes, the Canadian system has problems, but to compare it to the US is like comparing feces to vomit.

Hal said...

I'm not sure about better.

First, they pay for those things by taking taxes. I think their rate is, what, 80% income tax? You think the poor in America have trouble making ends meet now, try throwing that at them.

Second, they still have to save costs in that manner by capping physicians' salaries. That would be fine, except that is a disincentive towards physicians to enter the field or to remain in their country to practice. As in the example of Canada, a shortage of doctors was the result of such policies.

I've never taken a course on international health care systems, but the information I've found seems to indicate that the market is much better at taking care of matters than the government.

Steve the Troll said...

...the market is much better at taking care of matters than the government.

Better for you!

First, they pay for those things by taking taxes. I think their rate is, what, 80% income tax? You think the poor in America have trouble making ends meet now, try throwing that at them.

Right, but at least they would have their health (which they really don't have now). Also, physicians are overpaid here, and only because use their informational advantage to make a profit off people who really don't need a physician.