Ottawa

Residency shortages preventing MDs from treating patients

Despite getting through the rigours of medical school, a growing number of graduates are being denied a residency, putting their careers in limbo and preventing them from treating patients.

68 medical school graduates were denied a residency spot in 2017

Sixty-eight medical school graduates were denied a residency spot in 2017, up from just 11 students in 2009. (Shutterstock/funnyangel)

Despite getting through the rigours of medical school, a growing number of graduates are being denied a residency, putting their careers in limbo and preventing them from treating patients.

Sixty-eight medical school graduates across Canada were rejected last year after applying for a residency spot, up from 11 students in 2009, according to the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada.

Dr. Geneviève Moineau, the association's president and CEO, told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning immediate attention is needed to make sure all medical graduates can be matched with a residency spot.

"These are individuals who were picked out of tens of thousands of applicants, that we've trained," Moineau said. "And then they're blocked."

Wasted investment

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 to up to seven years for certain specialties.

But Moineau said the residency system is under strain, with some provinces cutting the number of spots available to graduates.

"In a context where healthcare is very expensive, this is one area where provinces are looking carefully at the cost implications."

Dr. Geneviève Moineau says a lack of residency spaces means some medical graduates have been forced to abandon their careers. (Bangkoker/Shutterstock)

Training a medical student in Canada can cost roughly a quarter of a million dollars, Moineau said, with many of those costs — including residents' salaries — borne by provincial governments.

"If taxpayers' dollars have supported these individuals for three or four years of their training — so that they can actually practise medicine and care for Canadians — we should not be blocking that," she said.

Call for more residency spaces

While faculties of medicine can offer rejected graduates another year of schooling, that option comes at a cost — both for the student and taxpayers.

Rejected graduates can apply for a residency the following year, but Moineau said there are some who see no other choice but to abandon their training and career as doctors.

"We know that there have been devastating consequences to individuals, whose futures really were deemed to be not worth pursuing," she said.

Faculties of medicine are reviewing their programs to help graduates consider a broader range of potential residencies in their final year, but Moineau said provincial health ministries must increase the number of spaces available and provide corresponding funding.

"In the vast majority of cases, this is not an issue with the graduate themselves. It's an issue with the system," she said.

"We need to be doing everything that we can to enable them to continue their training."

now