Lack of residency spots for some graduating MDs costs taxpayers, Calgary medical student advocate says
‘It costs about a quarter of a million dollars out of the public purse … to train a medical student'
The inability of some newly minted MDs graduating from Calgary's medical school and others in Canada to find residency spots to finish their training is a potential waste of public dollars, says one advocate.
This year, 169 newly graduated MDs still haven't found a placement in a residency program. That's up from 145 last year, said Franco Rizzuti, past president of the Canadian Federation of Medical Students.
In Calgary, eight students remain unmatched with positions, up from six in 2017, Rizzuti said.
The University of Calgary's Cumming School of Medicine graduates approximately 155 new doctors each year.
"It doesn't matter how we slice and dice it, there are more unmatched graduates of Canadian medical schools, graduated with their MD, ready to practice, who are unable to because of the increasingly tight ratio between graduating medical students and residency spots," said Rizzuti, who is a first-year resident in public health and preventive medicine at the University of Calgary.
Rizzuti said those unmatched students represent lost potential for the public health system.
"Rough numbers, it costs about a quarter of a million dollars out of the public purse, through taxpayers dollars, to train a medical student to graduation. So these eight students represent a $2-million investment, but they also represent a kind of unused opportunity cost for the public," he said.
"These are individuals who want to practice medicine, want to be contributing back to society and providing the service components of their residency, who are unable to do so because of how tight the numbers are."
After spending three or four years in medical school, every new doctor must undertake some form of residency training, which can last anywhere from two years for family medicine, up to seven years for some other specialties.
Groups representing students and medical faculties have been lobbying the federal and provincial governments to fund more residency positions.
Dr. Geneviève Moineau, president of the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada, told CBC News in February that a lack of residency spaces means some medical graduates have been forced to abandon their careers.
Medical school graduates who do find themselves unmatched to residency programs are left with a host of less-than-ideal options until the following year's selection process, Rizzuti said.
Some might do an additional year of medical school, while others might be able to line up shadowing opportunities, electives or observerships.
"It is pretty much a year of waiting, reflecting on where they want to go, and making their application that much stronger for the next year," he said.
With files from Dave Gilson