Wednesday, December 2, 2009 | Categories: Dr. Brian's Blog
According to recent statistics, an estimated 4.1 million Canadians don't have a family doctor. There's a broad consensus that we have a problem; but they're focusing on the wrong solution.
This week, the federal government announced a plan to speed up the process by which foreign-trained workers learn whether their credentials will be recognized in Canada. As of January 1, 2011, pharmacists, registered nurses, physiotherapists and occupational therapists will join architects engineers as foreign-trained professionals who will be able to find out - within one year of applying -- whether their credentials are acceptable in Canada.
The federal government wanted to include doctors, but Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said the medical profession was reluctant to come to the table, despite the shortage of doctors in Canada.
"Here we have a profession that is much in demand in Canada, and we have foreign trained doctors who are not given places to practice," he told the House of Commons immigration committee Tuesday in a Canadian Press article.
The Association released a statement declaring it's about to pilot test a national assessment for International Medical Graduates and also said a national system for verifying medical credentials has also been developed.
Meanwhile, cbc.ca/news reported that two medical groups say Canada should aim to ensure 95 per cent of people in every community have a family doctor by 2012. The College of Family Physicians of Canada and the Canadian Medical Association set that target Wednesday in releasing their final report on primary-care wait times.
To reach the goal, the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC) and the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) suggested that ways be found to encourage more medical students to choose family medicine, that there be increased training opportunities for qualified international medical graduates to work as family physicians, that family doctors be helped to streamline their offices and manage workload so they can see more patients, and that
patient registries be developed of people actively looking for a family doctor.
I question the underlying assumptions of both organizations that Canadians who don't have a family doctor want one and will only settle for one. Earlier this season, our show on orphan patients found that patients can be both satisfied and well cared for in a family practice clinic led by nurse practitioners (NPs).
The fact both organizations didn't even bother to mention NPs suggests they hope their nursing colleagues will just go away.
Not likely. The solutions the CFPC and the CMA propose have largely been tried and found wanting. The idea that Canada can and will provide sufficient family doctors for 95% of Canadians in every community - even remote, rural communities - is absurd.
Ontario is is so impressed with the first NP-led clinic in Sudbury, it announced three more - in Belle River, Sault Ste. Marie and Thunder Bay, with plans for another 21 throughout the province, by 2012.
In my opinion, making an increased number of family doctors the lynchpin of your plan for orphan patients is a non-starter. That ship has sailed.