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More doctors staying in Ontario, but shortage in city is still a pain

Stephanie Taylor | Interrobang | News | August 29th, 2005

For the first time in more than 30 years, more doctors are choosing to return to practice in Canada than are leaving the country to work elsewhere.

New statistics released by the Canadian Institute of Health Information (CIHI) report that in 2004, 317 physicians returned to Canada, and 262 moved abroad. This is the first time since 1967 that the scales have tipped in Canada's favour.

DoctorContrary to popular belief that the nation is growing shorter on health care professionals with each passing year this new data suggests otherwise.

“The…notable trend is that Canada's total number of doctors has kept in pace with population growth since the late 1990's,” said Steve Slade, a data consultant for CIHI. But Slade added that knowing the number of doctors currently practicing in Canada doesn't mean there are enough doctors.

Two new family practitioners recently set up practice in the city, and were flooded with applications from Londoners hoping to be accepted onto one of the doctors' patient lists, and received 300 applications on their first day. The London Free Press reported that there are currently 30,000 Londoners without a family doctor.

The doctors are coming to London thanks in part to a new initiative called Adopt-a-Doc. The program offers physicians a $20,000 incentive bonus for starting a practice in the city and works with the Health Care London Task Force.

“For more than a year, our Task Force has been working hard to find creative ways to attract new family doctors,” London Mayor Anne Marie DiCicco said in a recent press release, “and thanks to strategic alliances with the Ontario Medical Group and the London Business Laureates, we have two new doctors."

Health Canada reported that in 2003, over 3.6 million Canadians didn't have a family doctor. Of those Canadians, 2.4 million hadn't been looking, but a staggering 1.2 million had been trying to find a family physician and could not.

The city hopes to bring in 10 new doctors, but it is expected that 15 to 20 doctors will be retiring in the next few years, which will add additional strain to the shortage.
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