Calgary

Ratio of family doctors to patients in Alberta spikes 20% over 4 years

Alberta's ratio of family doctors to population is growing faster than any other province, according to a report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI).

CIHI report finds number of doctors per Canadian increased for 11th consecutive year

The number of family doctors per person in Alberta rose by almost 20 per cent from 2013 to 2017, says the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI). (Felipe Caparros/Shutterstock)

Alberta's ratio of family doctors to population is growing faster than any other province, according to a report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI).

The report by the not-for-profit shows the number of family physicians per person in Alberta jumped by almost 20 per cent between 2013 and 2017. Nationally, the ratio increased by 6.6 per cent.

Geoff Ballinger, CIHI's physician manager, says Alberta's increase is much higher than population growth and good news for patients.

"Based on current trends, we believe those kinds of growth rates are going to continue into the next few years," he said.

"So those who don't have access to a physician hopefully will be comforted by the fact there are more physicians in the system and they'll likely have a better opportunity to access one of those physicians in the future if they don't already."

A decade ago, a chronic undersupply of family physicians prompted the provincial government to spend $8 million to help direct more medical school graduates toward family medicine.

Nationally, CIHI says the number of doctors per Canadian increased for the 11th consecutive year.

Between 2013 and 2017, growth in the number of physicians outpaced population growth. There were 234 physicians per 100,000 population in 2017.

"Over the last few years, we've seen an increasing number of physicians per person and slowed growth in average gross clinical payments across the country," Ballinger said in a statement.

Changing demographics

CIHI's report found that Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador have the highest number of physicians per 100,000 people at 257 and 255, respectively.

In Alberta, about 38 per cent of working doctors are women, which is slightly lower than the national average.

Between 2013 and 2017, the number of female physicians in Canada increased by 19.2 per cent, while the number of male physicians increased by 6.8 per cent.

(CIHI)

The institute's report also shows details of the change in payments and workforce.

Average gross clinical payments ranged from $274,000 in Newfoundland and Labrador to $386,000 in Alberta in 2016-2017.

Those payments decreased for family doctors by just less than one per cent to $277,000, while medical and surgical specialists saw them rise by about one per cent to $357,000 and $477,000, respectively.

And about 30 per cent of family doctors and 22.5 per cent of specialists received medical degrees outside of Canada, with almost one third graduating from South Africa, India and the United Kingdom.

With files from The Canadian Press