More Canadian doctors come home – Health/special – More Canadian doctors come home
December 2, 2008. CARLY WEEKS

More Canadian physicians are returning from abroad to practise medicine in this country than are leaving, according to a new report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information.

For the fourth year in a row, the number of doctors coming back to Canada has outpaced those leaving to practise elsewhere, which suggests that their perception of the Canadian health-care system is improving, according to the institute.

The trend is due in part to the fact the overall number of physicians leaving Canada has dropped substantially in the past decade. From 1998 to 2007, the number of Canadian doctors who moved abroad fell by nearly 76 per cent, while the number returning to Canada from abroad jumped by 55.5 per cent.

“In general, there’s a net migration back to Canada,” said Geoff Ballinger, manager of health human resources at CIHI. “We see more doctors are returning to Canada than leaving Canada … which is encouraging.”

Last year, 142 doctors returned to Canada from abroad, compared with 122 who left, the report said.

The trend may reflect the reality of a changing economic environment in which the cost of living is on the rise and forecasts predict more trouble ahead, Mr. Ballinger said.

“I think the general economic conditions will also have an impact on physicians’ perception on where the best place to practise is,” he said.

The findings were included in a group of five reports released yesterday that chronicle migration, education, demographic and other trends across seven major health professions, including physicians, pharmacists, nurses and physiotherapists.

Another significant trend the institute found is that women are making up an increasing portion of Canada’s health-care industry. While women have typically dominated many health-related professions, particularly nursing, physiotherapy and occupational therapy, a growing number are moving into traditionally male occupations such as physicians and pharmacists.

“This is important and interesting, and important to planners and decision-makers,” Mr. Ballinger said.

He noted that women are more likely to leave the work force throughout their careers for maternity leave, child-rearing and other family obligations, which means health professions may have to develop comprehensive strategies to accommodate that reality.

Men accounted for about two-thirds of Canadian doctors in 2007, but the number of female physicians is growing at a much faster rate than that of their male counterparts, according to the report.

The number of male physicians in Canada grew less than 4 per cent from 1998 to 2007, while the number of female physicians soared nearly 40 per cent, the report found.

In addition, women comprised 56 per cent of Canadian family doctors younger than 40 in 2007, compared with just 16 per cent of those aged 60 and older.

If the growing trend of women entering medical school continues, there will probably be more female doctors than male doctors in Canada in the near future, Mr. Ballinger said.

Women are also making up a larger portion of those becoming pharmacists in this country, according to CIHI. In 2007, more than two-thirds of Canadian pharmacists younger than 40 were women, compared with just 27 per cent of pharmacists aged 60 and older.

There were nearly 63,700 doctors in Canada in 2007, an increase of about 7 per cent from 2003. The Canadian population increased 4.2 per cent during the same period.

The average physician’s age in Canada in 2007 was 49.6, making it the oldest of any of the seven health professions included in the study. The youngest health-care professions were occupational therapists and physiotherapists, with average ages of 38.9 and 41.2.


Women on the job

Women are making up an increasing portion of Canada’s health care system.

Family physicians/ 39%

Laboratory specialists/ 35%

Clinical specialists/ 31%

Surgical specialists/ 20%


Part-time: 37%

Full-time: 63%


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