AB has 2nd highest number of unfilled residency positions

Last month, Alberta saw an “unprecedented” number of unfilled positions for family medicine residents. That number has dropped significantly since then, but we still have the second highest number in the country.

Last month, the Alberta Medical Association published the results of the first round of the Canadian Resident Matching Service for 2023.

CaRMS is a national, independent organization providing application and match services to the Canadian medical education community. It uses its systems, knowledge, expertise, and a globally-recognized algorithm to match students into postgraduate medical training programs throughout Canada.

According to the update, which CaRMS published on 22 March 2023, Alberta had the third highest number of unfilled positions in family medicine after the first iteration of the 2023 R-1 match.

New Brunswick3
British Columbia2
Nova Scotia0

Of the 42 unfilled family medicine positions in Alberta, 21 of them are for the University of Alberta, and the other 21 are with the University of Calgary.

Here’s how they break down by location:

University of AlbertaEdmonton19
University of AlbertaGrande Prairie2
University of CalgaryCalgary14
University of CalgaryLethbridge2
University of CalgaryMedicine Hat5

The AMA reported earlier this week, that the 42 vacancies in Alberta was “unprecedented”. Not only has Alberta never seen 42 unfilled residency vacancies in family vacancies before but also it’s concerning that we had the third highest, given that we have the fourth largest population.

British Columbia, which has the third largest population in the country, had the third lowest number of vacancies of all the provinces reporting.

On the plus side, however, Alberta has filled 20 of those vacancies over the last month, according to the second iteration of the 2023 R-1 main residency match.

New Brunswick1
British Columbia0
Nova Scotia0

Although, as we can see, Alberta has jumped to second place for the highest number of resident vacancies. Ontario, which had the highest number of unfilled residency positions in March, dropped from 100 to just 3 vacancies last month.

Manitoba and British Columbia filled all their vacancies over the past month, bring the total number of provinces with no vacancies to 4. This also means that Alberta is now the only province in Western Canada with unfilled resident positions in family medicine.

Here’s a look at how each province’s unfilled family medicine positions changed between March and April.

Mar 2023Apr 2023Change% change
British Columbia20-2-100.00%
New Brunswick31-2-66.67%
Nova Scotia000

Alberta had the third largest drop in unfilled family medicine resident positions, compared to the other provinces. As a percentage of March’s numbers, however, Alberta saw the second smallest reduction.

And here are the updated numbers for the two Alberta universities and the family medicine residency locations:

University of AlbertaEdmonton13
University of AlbertaGrande Prairie2
University of CalgaryCalgary4
University of CalgaryMedicine Hat3

Both of the Lethbridge residency positions have since been filled. Calgary’s has dropped by 10, Edmonton’s has dropped by 6, and Medicine Hat by 2. Grande Prairie hasn’t seen any of their vacancies filled.

In addition, last month, Alberta had one unfilled resident positions in each of the following specialty areas:

  • Hematological pathology
  • Medical Microbiology
  • Neuropathology
  • Otolaryngology (head and neck surgery)
  • Psychiatry
  • Public health and preventive medicine

Since that time, the psychiatry vacancy has been filled, but the vacancy in public health and preventive medicine has increased to two.

Fredrykka Rinaldi, the president of the AMA, said that she was “extremely concerned about the initial round of matches”. And she thinks the results of the second round are proof that Alberta needs change.

The 2023 CaRMS matches are a huge signal that action is needed. More must be done to stabilize and support family medicine and make it a more attractive specialty. We must urgently stabilize practices, retain and attract family physicians and create capacity for training, particularly in rural areas.

She also went on to highlight that “other provinces are responding to these challenges much more expeditiously, and that shows in the CaRMS numbers.”

She also warns that the provincial government must “work with physicians to change the landscape to make family medicine — and all specialties — sustainable and attractive in Alberta.”

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news stories, focusing on politics and labour.

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