Last month, I wrote a news story about the number of registered physicians in Alberta.
I decided to go through the physician registrations from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta to see what information I could find about doctors in the region specifically, rather than the province as a whole.
First, here’s the number of registrations per year for each of the health zones since 2016. Keep in mind that the 2022 numbers are for just one quarter, and they may change throughout the rest of the year.
There’s some interesting data in there.
Every health zone saw a drop in the number of registered physicians in the that zone.
Now, to be fair, the first quarter always sees a drop after the fourth quarter, so the fact that every health zone had fewer registered physicians shouldn’t be that surprising.
What we need to examine is what that drop looked like compared to previous drops.
As well, the data shows that 2019 saw increases over 2018, so 2022 registrations were still higher than 2018 registrations in most zones, even with the drop from 2019 numbers.
That being said, these should be taken in context. Here’s how much different the 2022 numbers are to the 2018 numbers.
(2022 vs 2018)
What we see here is that when compared to the 2018 registration numbers, the South Zone is the only zone that has seen a decrease in registrations. In fact, the South Zone has only 6 more registrations than it had at the end of 2016. And that’s for the entire health zone, not just Lethbridge.
Not only that, but at the end of the first quarter of 2022, the number of physicians registered in the South Zone made up 5.19% of all registrations in the province. Last year, it was 5.29%, and the previous year, it was 5.46% of all registrations. It was 5.76% in 2019 and 5.65% in 2018. This is the lowest percentage the South Zone has seen since at least 2016.
Now, let’s look at Lethbridge physicians specifically. Below is the number of registrations for each quarter since 2016, as well as the quarter-over-quarter percent change.
Here it is in graph form.
First, the total number of registrations.
We see that more or less, physician registrations in Lethbridge had been rising for about 4 years, hitting their peak in the final quarter of 2019. Over the past couple of years or so, the numbers have been dropping. There was a bit of a surge during the start of the pandemic, but the last 5 quarters have completely wiped out those gains.
Not only that, but physician registrations are now at their lowest level since the 1st quarter of 2018, when they were also at 275.
Keep in mind that the population of Lethbridge has increased during that time, which means we have the same number of registered physicians for more people.
At the end of 2017 (just before the first quarter of 2018), Lethbridge had a population of 96,515. That means 1 doctor for every 350.96 people.
By comparison, there were 101,799 people living in Lethbridge by the end of 2021, just before the first quarter of 2022. The ratio of physicians to people has jumped to 1 for ever 370.18 people.
In other words, each doctor is theoretically responsible for an extra 20 people.
Next, the % change from quarter to quarter.
Looking at the data this way shows us some interesting information.
First, of the 12 quarters that the UCP government have been in power, 6 of them had negative growth. Not only that, but 5 of them were larger decreases than the other 4 periods of decreases in the previous 3 years.
In fact, in the first quarter of 2020—the start of the COVID-19 pandemic—Lethbridge saw its largest single decrease in physician registrations during this 5-year period.
Lethbridge lost 25 physician registrations as the pandemic was starting. That’s 1 in 13 physicians.
If we average all the increases and decreases since the UCP took office, we see a net decrease of only -0.37%, which works out to a loss of 1.25 registrations every quarter, on average.
Last year, Lethbridge saw only 1 quarter with an increase in registrations, but it wasn’t enough to make up for the losses in the other 3. If we add them all up, Lethbridge averaged 1.08% fewer registrations per quarter last year. That rate drops to 1.76% fewer if we tack on the first quarter of 2022.
Let’s compare the first quarter of 2022 with previous first quarters.
The first quarter of 2022 was the only first quarter over the last 7 years where Lethbridge saw a year-over-year decrease in the number of registered physicians. And it wasn’t a small decrease either: it was nearly a drop of 6%.
In fact, it was such a significant drop, that it nearly wiped out the first-quarter gains of 2019 and 2021 combined.