City facing major doctor crunch, physician warns

By PABLO FERNANDEZ, SUN MEDIA

Steps being taken to address a shortage of family physicians in the province are a good start but they may not be enough to prevent a looming medical crisis, say Calgary doctors.

In the next three years the situation is going to become so dire, Dr. Glenn Comm said, he can only hope the numbers in front of him are wrong.

In a piece he authored for the October issue of the monthly medical publication Vital Signs, he states the small number of doctors practising family medicine in the city is set to get a lot smaller in the very near future.

Of approximately 50 family medicine residency graduates in the city last year, only two have set up practices, said Comm, the Calgary and Area Physician’s Association president.

“With at least 41 doctors having given up their practices last year, the two who set up offices won’t even begin to cover our population increase, much less replace the doctors who have given up their practice,� he told the Sun today.

The problem is compounded by figures from a Calgary Health Region survey, which state a significant number of doctors currently practising family medicine in the city are considering closing their doors, said Comm.

“It revealed that in each of the next three years, 30% of the 300 respondents would have a lease renewal — 90% over the three-year period,� he said.

“Of those doctors, 40% said they would consider giving up their practices at that time.

“The stage is set for additional tens, if not hundreds of thousands of Calgarians to be left without access to a family physician.�

New initiatives introduced by the province recently, which address the mounting overhead costs of running a practice, will have a positive, if minimal, effect on the problem, said Comm.

“These are positive steps but I fear that before they take effect, we may lose more people,� he said.

“We need to make it more economically viable to have a family practice … because if only 10% decide not to renew their practice, that’s way too much.
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