Dear Colleagues,

Earlier this month, I announced the release by the Royal College’s first-ever comprehensive workforce study into the issue of specialist employment. I reported that after two years of study we had uncovered an egregious failure in workforce planning that has left many specialist physicians unable to find work in their fields. As our report acknowledged, this reality is particularly troubling and confusing given that Canadians can spend months and even years waiting to see a specialist. How can long wait lists be the norm when our colleagues are short on work?

We cannot conclude from our findings that Canada has too many specialist physicians.

The report generated considerable interest and response not only from Royal College members, but also the media. More than 55 articles, television spots and radio interviews probed and analyzed our findings. Some commentators focused on a particular aspect of the report — such as the key message that six per cent of specialist physicians cannot find appropriate work — and others used the report as an opportunity to share their perspectives about a health care system badly in need of repair.

Some in the media reached the erroneous conclusion that Canada has too many specialist physicians. We worked hard to make clear at the report’s release that we can derive no such conclusion from our findings. The issue of specialist unemployment is far too complex to be interpreted as a simple case of supply versus demand.

A systemic problem requires systemic solutions. In February, the Royal College will delve into the issues more deeply by convening a national summit of residents, health care and government leaders, and medical education experts. We expect the forum will serve as the foundation for a pan-Canadian, cross-jurisdictional workforce-planning collaboration that can begin to tackle this pervasive challenge.

Spirited dialogue on a key human resources issue.

I was encouraged by the number of Fellows who used this blog to express their views and to share diverse experiences with one another — over 130 comments. Many were lengthy, thoughtful assessments of the report’s findings. Some were from despondent specialists frustrated by a health human resources approach that is serving neither them nor their prospective patients. I was heartened by the compassion and encouragement in some of your comments to younger physicians who are having trouble finding work.

Your thoughts and ideas on discussion items for our February 2014 National Summit on Physician Employment are also welcome. I will keep you informed of our progress on this issue and welcome any further comments you have on the subject.

Warm wishes and kind regards,

Andrew Padmos, BA, MD, FRCPC, FACP
Chief Executive Officer