NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Canadian Doctors Eyeing United States

October 17, 2003

The residents of Windsor, Ontario, might lose two of their four neurosurgeons if Drs. Siva Sriharan and Srinivas Chakravarthi move their practices to nearby Detroit, Mich.

The two surgeons are sharply critical of Canada's health care system, which features government-financed insurance for all, but increasingly rations service because of shortages of technology and personnel. Both doctors say they are fed up with a two-tier medical system in which those with connections go to the head of the line for surgery.

Many other Canadian doctors feel the lure of the United States these days, particularly if they live close to the border:

  • The supply of family doctors has increased at a rate lower than population growth in recent years, a problem that is complicated by an aging population and doctors seeking shorter hours.
  • There was a net migration of 49 neurosurgeons from Canada from 1996 to 2002, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, a large loss given that there are only 241 neurosurgeons in the country.
  • Waiting time for elective surgery is growing across the country, and becoming a hot political issue.

The brain drain of medical talent, particularly specialists to the United States and is becoming a serious problem.

"Physicians across Canada are in an advanced stage of burnout due to work conditions," said Dr. Sunil V. Patel, president of the Canadian Medical Association, who attributed much of the problem to technological shortages and the powerlessness doctors feel when patients complain about long waits for treatment. "That burnout causes them to retire early or pull away from certain kinds of work or simply leave."

Source: Clifford Krauss, "Doctors Eying the U.S.: Canada Is Sick About It," New York Times, October 17, 2003.


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