Quebec Faces Persistent Family Doctor Shortage Despite Efforts

Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé announces 1,165 new MD registrations to address the province's 70 vacant family doctor positions. Across Canada, an estimated 2.3 million people lack access to a family doctor, with the shortage projected to worsen in the next two years.

Trim Correspondents
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Quebec Faces Persistent Family Doctor Shortage Despite Efforts

Quebec Faces Persistent Family Doctor Shortage Despite Efforts

Quebec continues to grapple with a persistent shortage of family doctors, with 70 vacancies remaining unfilled despite efforts to increase residency matching. Health Minister Christian Dubé has announced 1,165 new MD registrations for the 2024-2025 period in an attempt to address the issue.

Why this matters: The shortage of family doctors has significant implications for the overall health and wellbeing of Canadians, particularly vulnerable populations such as the elderly and those with chronic conditions. If left unaddressed, this shortage could lead to increased healthcare costs, decreased health outcomes, and a further strain on the healthcare system.

The shortage of family physicians is a growing concern across Canada, with an estimated 2.3 million Canadians currently lacking access to a family doctor. This figure is projected to nearly double within the next two years, highlighting the urgency of the situation.

In neighboring Ontario, the situation is equally concerning. After the first round of matches by the Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS) in March 2024, 108 out of 560 family medicine training positions remained vacant. This represents a significant increase from 61 unfilled positions in 2022 and 30 in 2020.

The Ontario Medical Association (OMA) has reported a consistent decline in the number of family physicians from 2019 to 2023, as well as a decline in medical school graduates selecting primary care as their first choice. OMA President Dr. Andrew Park emphasizes the need for immediate action, stating, "It is clear we need to act now to ensure there is a future for family medicine in Ontario." Dr. Park also highlights the impact of the shortage on patients, warning, "What does this all mean for patients? It means that there will be fewer family doctors practising family medicine, which means less access to care."

Universities and medical schools are taking steps to address the issue. McMaster University, for example, managed to fill all of its vacant family training positions after the second round of matching by turning to more international medical graduates (IMG) than ever before. The province has also increased the number of medical school and residency positions in 2022 and 2023, and a new medical school focusing on training family doctors is set to open at Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) in Brampton in September 2025.

Despite these efforts, the shortage of family doctors persists in Quebec and other parts of Canada. As Dr. Jobin Varughese, TMU's interim Assistant Dean of Primary Care Education, emphasizes, "An immediate investment in the teaching workforce of family medicine is one of the most urgent priorities because without that workforce, all of the efforts our schools, our policymakers ... will fall short because we won't have a place to train them."

The family doctor shortage in Quebec and across Canada remains a pressing issue, with millions of Canadians lacking access to primary care. While efforts are being made to increase the number of family medicine training positions and attract more medical graduates to the field, the problem persists. Addressing this shortage will require a concerted effort from policymakers, medical schools, and healthcare organizations to ensure that all Canadians have access to the primary care they need.

Key Takeaways

  • Quebec has 70 unfilled family doctor vacancies despite efforts to increase residency matching.
  • 1,165 new MD registrations announced for 2024-2025 to address the shortage.
  • 2.3 million Canadians lack access to a family doctor, projected to nearly double in 2 years.
  • Ontario has 108 unfilled family medicine training positions, a significant increase from 2022.
  • Immediate investment in teaching workforce and primary care education is urgently needed.