AB saw its largest drop in physician registrations last quarter

Between the fourth quarter of 2022 and the first quarter of 2023, Alberta lost 275 physician registration, the largest decline since at least 2016.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta recently released their first quarter Physician Resources in Alberta update for 2023.

According to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta, there were 11,132 registered physicians at the end of March 2023. That’s a net decrease of 275 over the previous quarter and a net increase of 167 over the same period in 2022.

Of the 18 communities listed in their report, 13 either saw a net decrease of registered physicians over the last quarter or saw no change in registered physicians. Fort McMurray, had the largest net increase, at 4, and Grande Prairie had the second highest, at 3, followed by Medicine Hat, at 2. Edmonton saw the largest decrease, at 133, followed by Calgary, at 111.

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That quarterly net decrease of 275 was a result of 179 new registrations and 454 cancellations:


  • 144 new registrations
  • 19 restored registrations
  • 13 returning to Alberta
  • 3 who came out of retirement


  • 21 left Alberta
  • 51 erased their own registrations
  • 283 were removed
  • 0 died
  • 99 retired

Of the new registrations, 13 were for physicians who returned to Alberta and 116 who were trained outside of Alberta. When we compare that with the 21 who left Alberta, we get a net migration of 108 physicians into the province. Remember, that is for registrations. Theoretically, a doctor could leave Alberta but maintain their registration in the province.

The numbers reflect the physicians who maintained an active licence within the applicable quarter; it cannot be interpreted as those who are actively practising. . . . These counts do not necessarily reflect physicians’ functional area of practice, or even if they have an active clinical practice.

“Methodology”. Physician Resources in Alberta Quarterly Update: Jan 01, 2023 to Mar 31, 2023, pp. 1,3.

Let’s look at the registration numbers over the last 5 years or so (I couldn’t find any CPSA data beyond 2016):

Jan–Mar 202311,132-2.4%
Oct–Dec 202211,4070.5%
Jul–Sep 202211,3462.5%
Apr–Jun 202211,0690.9%
Jan–Mar 202210,965-1.7%
Oct–Dec 202111,153-0.1%
Jul–Sep 202111,1672.2%
Apr–Jun 202110,9270.6%
Jan–Mar 202110,866-2.3%
Oct–Dec 202011,120-0.3%
Jul–Sep 202011,1522.3%
Apr–Jun 202010,9050.9%
Jan–Mar 202010,812-1.2%
Oct–Dec 201910,9480.4%
Jul–Sep 201910,9062.9%
Apr–Jun 201910,5990.8%
Jan–Mar 201910,519-1.5%
Oct–Dec 201810,6740.4%
Jul–Sep 201810,6302.7%
Apr–Jun 201810,3510.7%
Jan–Mar 201810,274-1.0%
Oct–Dec 201710,3760.0%
Jul–Sep 201710,3792.9%
Apr–Jun 201710,0881.0%
Jan–Mar 20179,991-0.6%
Oct–Dec 201610,0480.0%
Jul–Sep 201610,0433.4%
Apr–Jun 20169,7131.2%
Jan–Mar 20169,596-1.2%

Let’s look at all the first quarters together. First, we’ll compare first quarter registrations to fourth quarter registrations.

As we can see, the first quarter always sees a reduction in physician registrations, when compared to the preceding fourth quarter. However, in this case, at 2.41%, the first quarter of 2023 saw the largest percentage-based decrease since at least 2016.

Not only that, but of the 4 first quarters we’ve seen under the UCP, the last 3 have seen the 3 largest decreases in registrations over the last 8 years.

Plus, not only is the largest first quarter decrease since 2016, it’s the largest decrease of any quarter during that same period, both as a percentage (-2.41%) and in total registrations (-275).

And here are the 8 first quarters with how much they’ve changed from the previous first quarter.

Physician registrations in the first quarter of this year weren’t the worst we’ve seen since 2016, but they were the third worst. Last year’s gain of 0.91% was smaller than this year’s gain of 1.52%, as was 2021’s gain of just 0.50%.

Since the first quarter of 2019, the last quarter before the UCP took power, Alberta physician registrations grew by 613, or 5.83%.

By comparison, between the same period 4 years prior (first quarter of 2015 until first quarter of 2019), Alberta saw a net increase of 1,358 physician registration under the NDP. That’s an increase of 14.82%, more than two and a half times as much as what we saw under the UCP.

Now how do they break down by where they came from and where they went to?

Well, 28 of the 101 new registrations were from people trained in the province, compared to 26 in 2021. 116 were new registrations from outside Alberta and 19 were “restored”. In 2022, those numbers were 71 and 15, respectively, in the fourth quarter.

There were 13 registrations for physicians who returned to Alberta, compared to 15 in 2022. However, 21 of the 454 cancelled registrations were from physicians who left the province, as I pointed out earlier, leaving a net migration gain of 108 physicians when added to the 116 registrations from physicians trained from outside Alberta.

Of the remaining 26 cancellations, 99 retired and 0 died, compared to 132 and 0 in 2022. As well, there were 283 removed registrations. These were for physicians who were suspended or were licensed for a limited period and have since been removed from the register. This number was 86 in the first quarter of 2022.

Finally, 51 physicians voluntarily erased their registrations. During the first quarter of 2022, 67 did so.

Oh, and I just want to point out that out of those 11,132 registered physicians, only 3,704 are registered in family medicine, which works out to be about 1 family doctor for every 1,208 residents. At the end of March 2022, Alberta had 1 family doctor for every 1,210 residents.

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By Kim Siever

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

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