How should Ontario tackle the psychiatrist shortage?

Posted on August 11, 2018 in Health Delivery System – news
August 10, 2018.

A new report highlights the challenges Ontarians face when accessing psychiatric services.

Released by the Ontario Psychiatric Association (OPA), Help Wanted: Ontario needs psychiatrists suggests that of the 1,900 practicing psychiatrists in Ontario, over half are approaching retirement.  In the report, the OPA urges the provincial government to offer incentives to increase the shortage of psychiatrists.

The average annual number of outpatients seen by psychiatrists in Ontario has increased 20 percent between 2003 and 2013. Contrast this with the anticipated 15 percent decrease in the number of psychiatrists per population.

“These statistics are particularly concerning for rural communities, which are notoriously difficult to recruit new doctors to,” the report states. “A disproportionate number of near retirement psychiatrists currently serve these areas, and often see high volumes of patients to compensate for the access issues.”

The OPA offers three recommendations to stave this potential crisis in mental health care:

  1. Improve psychiatry exposure in medical school.
  2. Increase psychiatry residency spots and reduce residency vacancies.
  3. Pay psychiatrists adequately: their average gross annual pay that is 25 percent lower than the across-specialty average.

Canadian Mental Health Association Ontario recognizes that access to psychiatry can be a critical component of mental health and addictions services. CMHA branches such as CMHA York and South Simcoe and CMHA Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge provide psychiatric services in a community setting.

To help Ontarians who live with mild to moderate depression and anxiety, CMHA Ontario also offers BounceBack, a free program. Participants can watch online videos and get tips to manage mood, sleep better, build confidence, increase activity and healthy living.  Or, participants have access to Bounce Back coaches that offer telephon- based support as individuals work through a series of CBT workbooks.

To learn more about BounceBack please visit

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