NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 17, 2004

Canada's health care system is often touted as a model for the United States. However, the Canadian system is experiencing a shortage of doctors -- including basic family practitioners -- and patients have to wait hours and sometimes weeks for examinations and treatments, according to observers.

According to a 2002 Canadian Senate report:

  • The number of family doctors has slightly declined over recent years, but as the population ages, the demand for health care will increase.
  • Practicing family doctors are now working fewer hours but are seeing more patients, resulting in patients waiting hours to see a doctor and then feeling rushed during the appointment.
  • The country produces only 2,200 medical graduates per year, short of the necessary 2,500 graduates to sustain the current system; moreover, many graduates are taking advantage of more lucrative opportunities in the United States.
  • Government statistics reveal almost 15 percent of the population does not have a family doctor, representing about 3.6 million Canadians.

Moreover, the physician shortage and frustration over waiting times is creating a burden for the country's emergency treatment facilities:

  • Emergency rooms are flooded with people waiting up to four hours for simple services, such as getting a prescription filled, a doctor's note or care for flu symptoms.
  • However, an estimated 30 percent of patients would gladly see their family doctor if they could do so in a timely manner.

Source: Clifford Krauss, "Canada Looks for Ways to Fix its Health Care System," New York Times, September 12, 2004.

For NYT text (subscription required):


Browse more articles on Health Issues