Where oh where are the doctors?

By the early 1980's, health care was eating up more and more of provincial budgets. A couple of geniuses - health economists - concluded the problem was we just had too many doctors. So to save money, they cut med school enrollment....and we went from graduating 1850 doctors a year to just 1550. Those cuts put the good ship health care on a collision course -- fueled by a couple of trends.

First, today's doctors work fewer hours than GPs did even ten years ago. They want more time to be with their families. Can't blame'em. Second, there's the impact of women. A Quebec study found female MDs work fewer hours and see fewer patients, though they do deliver better care.

Med schools have since reversed course and hiked enrollment. But it'll take years for that to make a difference to you. Meantime, according to the Canadian Medical Association, six percent of doctors plan to retire next year......and a third more plan to reduce their workload.

That all adds up to something many of you know already through experience - too many patients, not enough doctors. This Saturday morning at 9:30 am we're replaying our show on the doctor shortage. You'll hear a lot about the problems we face here in Canada, but also something we hope will surprise you a little: the problem that doctor poaching has created in South Africa.

Some third of all doctors in rural Saskatchewan, for instance, are from South Africa. They come from the balmy, seaside clime of Cape Town to minus 30 on the bald prairie because, in part, of active recruiting drives by the provincial college. They're free to do that of course, and we are free to tempt them here to solve our problem. But what impact has it had on health care back in South Africa?

We asked Chris Bateman, a medical journalist with the South African Medical Association to tell us:



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