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A University of Alberta study indicates that Western Canada is looking forward to a worsening family doctor shortage. In a survey of medical students, 80 percent indicated intentions of specializing rather than remaining in family medicine. Higher pay and a less demanding workload are the main reasons cited, with high student debt load the driving force.
Medical students graduate with between $50,000 and $100,000 in student loan debt. It seems logical that the route that will pay this debt off most quickly is highly appealing.
What does this mean to Canadians seeking health care? It is not just a problem of family doctor shortage, but a doctor shortage in general. Already many general practitioners are refusing to take new patients. The situation for special practitioners is even worse, with patients often waiting months for an appointment. A provincial medical report estimates that Alberta alone needs another 1300 doctors.
The shortage is worsened by: the high cost of medical school, crushing graduation debt loads, and limited enrollment spaces and higher entrance standards that are putting medical school out of the reach of all but the rich elite.
Family doctor shortage will worsen: report. Medical students more interested in specializing than family practice. Larry Johnsrude, Edmonton Journal, July 3, 2004