Stewart Kennedy, executive vice-president of academic and medical affairs at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, says northwestern Ontario is finally gaining much-needed medical specialists. (Nicole Ireland/CBC) “Sometimes [specialists are] unable to find a position in a locality that they want,” Kennedy said. “So I think we really have to look at the distribution of physicians [geographically].” ‘Advantage’ in northwestern Ontario Kennedy said NOSMis accomplishing its goalto graduate much-needed physicians and specialists to work at the hospital and in the region. “We had challenges with human resources for a good number of years,” he said. “We have increased medical student enrolmentby … 40 or 50 per cent over the past eight years, because we’ve had such shortages,” he said. “It’s playing to our advantage in northwestern Ontario because we are able to recruit top, talented doctors [who], at one point … always wanted to stay in an academic centre in eastern Ontario.” Strasser saidthe Royal College report shows the need for better medical workforce planning at the national level to ensure doctors are trained in the specialties where there is projected demand,and available to work in the geographic areas where they are needed. “It’s really looking to plan for and ensure the supply of the right physicians with the right skills in the right places … across Canada.” Kennedy said right now, Thunder Bay Regional is well-staffed in some specialties like neurosurgery and orthopedicsurgery, but the hospital needs more emergency physicians and psychiatrists. It is also recruiting vascular surgeons and anesthetists. Cautions against ‘knee-jerk reaction’ Both Kennedy and Strasseremphasized that, even thougha certain specialty area may not have vacancies right now, it can change by the time a current medical student is ready to practise. They said specialists may retire or move elsewhere, or hospitalresources maychange.
New study shows 1 in 6 newly graduated medical specialists can’t find work
Were hoping that our research shows that this is not a simple issue. And that we shouldnt have any knee-jerk reactions, otherwise we will perpetuate this boom-bust cycle that weve been in. Its like Groundhog Day, she said, referring to the popular Bill Murray movie. Frechette suggested, however, that a national health systems workforce planning body would be an important start. Australia, Britain and the U.S. all have such an entity. The report pointed to a number of factors that have contributed to the oversupply of specialists. Poor stock market returns in recent years have meant that some older doctors most of whom must finance their own pension plans have delayed retirement. And there has been a realignment or rationalization of tasks in health care, with nurses and physician assistants taking on responsibilities that were once left to doctors, freeing them up to do some tasks that used to fall to specialists. That effect, which Lewis called sensible, will only accelerate as less invasive treatments are brought on line. For instance, angioplasty opening blocked cardiac arteries with balloons and stents has replaced many open heart surgeries to bypass blocked arteries. Lewis suggested the cycle of training specialists which typically takes about nine years is out of sync with the cycle of assessing future medical system requirements. Forecasting health human resource needs more than three or four or five years out is a fools game, because medical science changes, health needs can change, technology can change and so on. But Frechette said there are some low hanging fruit problems that should be relatively easy to address. For instance, her study noted there are jobs going for the asking.