Ministry Reports

Shaping Ontario's Physician Workforce : Building Ontario's Capacity to Plan, Educate, Recruit and Retain Physicians to Meet Health Needs

Report of the Expert Panel on Health Professional Human Resources


Executive Summary

Over the next 10 years,Ontario's population is expected to increase by about 12%, and age significantly. As the population grows and ages, its need for health services will also grow. Government has made a commitment to meet those needs. In the Communiqué on Health issued in September 2000, Canada's First Ministers agreed to: "ensure that each government or jurisdiction has the people with the skills needed to provide appropriate levels of care and health services." In Ontario's April 1999 "Blueprint" and the Ontario 2000 Budget, the government underlined its commitment to ensure all communities across the province have access to physician services.

Yet there are signs -- physician shortages in some parts of the province, nursing shortages, waiting lists -- that Ontario 's health care system (like those in other provinces) may not have the number and mix of human resources to meet health needs. Recent reports from Dr. Robert McKendry (the Fact Finder on Physician Resources in Ontario appointed by the government and the Ontario Medical Association in 1999), the Canadian Medical Forum and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences -- all released late in 1999 -- specifically identified problems with the supply, mix and distribution of Ontario's physician services. These problems are occurring at a time when the province has made significant commitments to increase certain priority health services to meet the needs of an aging population, such as cardiac care and cancer care -- commitments that will increase the need for health professionals, including physicians.

To address these needs and ensure Ontario has the right supply, mix and distribution of physician services in the future, the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care established the Expert Panel on Health Professional Human Resources. The 18-member panel, chaired by Dr. Peter George, President and Vice-Chancellor of McMaster University, brought together a wide range of expertise and perspectives,including urban areas, rural communities and the North.

Having reviewed Dr. McKendry's work and other relevant research, the Expert Panel proposes that Ontario take a strategic, systems-wide approach to health workforce planning. The problems cannot be solved by simply adjusting the number of students going into the system. They require a more comprehensive approach, one that will address all the factors -- including education, incentives, demographics, public expectations and health policies -- that affect where and how health professionals practice and the type of services they provide.

To shape the physician workforce to meet health needs, the Expert Panel suggests Ontario take four steps to build its capacity to plan for, educate, recruit, and retain physicians.

  1. Plan Physician Services To Meet Needs
  2. Provide Appropriate Education
  3. Produce The Right Supply And Mix Of Physician Services
  4. Attract And Retain Physicians Where They Are Needed

See also: Expert Panel Membership List

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January 2001

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