Recommendations Validate Early Work, Reinforce Urgency of Next Steps

Physicians in Manitoba welcome a new national report, Addressing Canada’s Health Workforce Crisis, published recently by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health. The report includes 20 recommendations to help address the shortage of physicians and other health care workers.

While Manitoba has one of the biggest physician shortages in Canada, it is an issue in all provinces and so seeing national leading practices to address this critical issue is very valuable,” said Dr. Candace Bradshaw, President of Doctors Manitoba. The shortage of doctors, along with other health care workers, is having an impact on all aspects of patient care, from hospitals to community practices, from urban to rural and Northern communities. There is no path forward to improving health care without addressing these shortages.”

Some of the national recommendations validate the early actions taken under Manitoba’s Health Human Resource Action Plan to address the physician shortage. These provincial actions were based on advice from Doctors Manitoba and include:

  • Expanding medical training;
  • Increasing the number of residency spaces for international medical graduates and streamlining their licensure process;
  • Reducing administrative burdens for physicians; and
  • Implementing mental health supports for health care workers, including peer support.

The Committee also recommends optimizing scopes of practice for primary care professionals, such as nurse practitioners and pharmacists, an area in which Manitoba is already a national leader.

At the same time, the report offers recommendations that reinforce the critical next steps physicians have been recommending to the provincial government, including:

  • Focusing on retaining physicians through incentives, perhaps the most immediate action needed;
  • Developing strategies to recruit, train and support physicians in rural, remote and Northern communities;
  • Promoting and expanding team-based care, which will allow medical clinics to include more nurses, physician assistants and allied health professionals;
  • Exploring alternative payment models, especially where they can alleviate physician burnout; and
  • Promoting and attracting physicians into family medicine.

In addition to having a record-high physician shortage, nearly half of the physicians we do have are planning to retire, leave Manitoba or reduce their clinical hours if nothing changes,” added Dr. Bradshaw. We are encouraged by the significant increase in health funding in the provincial government’s budget, and we strongly recommend rapidly directing some of this funding to addressing the physician shortage, beginning with retaining the physicians we are at high risk of losing.”

The province’s Health Human Resource Action Plan was announced last November. While some of the actions to support physician recruitment and retention have been confirmed to move forward, the initiatives offering the most immediate relief and support to retaining physicians remain in limbo. Doctors Manitoba continues to advocate for urgent action and will support provincial efforts to rapidly advance these initiatives.