A new report suggests Canadian doctors have seen their pay raising rapidly while provincial governments struggle to fund health care.
In their research for the University of Calgary's School of Public Policy, Hugh Grant and Jeremiah Hurley found doctor pay has rose in the last decade by about five per cent every year. The average Canadian doctor earned a net income of $248,113 in 2010, according to the report.
Governments spooked a decade ago by the threat of doctor shortages and long surgery wait times are to blame, said Grant, an economics professor at the University of Winnipeg.
"I think most people would acknowledge now that the physician shortage was highly exaggerated," he said.
Today, Canada has plenty of doctors to go around and there is no longer a large exodus of medical professionals to the United States, he said.
"We now have seen a reverse flow — that there has been more physicians coming to Canada than leaving Canada."
Grant argues doctors need to stop receiving large pay increases. He says provincial governments, including Ontario and Alberta, are starting to fight back, which will mean more conflict in the coming years.
"If physician associations want to maintain their professional autonomy, they are going to have to be more responsible."
Doctor disagrees with findings
Alberta Medical Association president Michael Giuffre says some of the data used in the report is out of date
"We showed that physicians' incomes track beautifully over a 20-year time frame with the CPI, which is the Consumer Price Index. So really in terms of proportionality, really physician incomes have not significantly changed relative to the Consumer Price Index."
Most provinces still don't have as many doctors as they need, he said, especially in rural areas.
"I think most patients would say that they prefer to have a physician, rather than not have a physician, and that physician shortages remain a problem, not only in Alberta but other provinces. Specific incentive programs are put in place, in Alberta for example, to actually attract physicians, to get the best in the world to come here."
Read the report