The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta recently released their 3rd quarter Physician Resources in Alberta update for 2021.
According to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta, there were 11,167 registered physicians at the end of September 2021. That’s a net increase of 240 over the previous quarter and a net increase of 15 over the same period in 2020.
Of the 18 communities listed in their report, all but 4 saw a net increase of registered physicians over the last quarter. Unsurprisingly, Calgary and Edmonton had the largest net increase, at 78 and 99 respectively. Nowhere else had increases larger than 6.
That quarterly net increase of 240 was a result of 286 new regiatrations and 46 cancellations:
- 268 new registrations
- 36 restored registrations
- 31 returning to Alberta
- 6 who came out of retirement
- 20 left Alberta
- 3 erased their own registrations
- 5 were removed
- 1 died
- 17 retired
Of the new registrations, 6 were for physicians returned to Alberta and 146 who were trained outside of Alberta. When we compare that with the 20 who left Alberta, we get a net migration of 132 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: Oct 01, 2020 to Dec 30, 2020, 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):
Let’s look at all the third quarters together. First, we’ll compare second quarter registrations to first quarter registrations.
While it might seem like good news that Alberta saw more physician registrations in the third quarter than in the second quarter, it’s important to remember that every third quarter sees an increase over the second quarter.
Which is why it’s important to look at the third quarter performance to that of other third quarters. And when we do, we see that this is the worst year-over-year performance in the last 6 years.
Not only that, but this now makes 2 years in a row with the worst third quarter performance. Last year’s third quarter increase of 2.27% was the worst we had seen since at least 2016, but that was overshadowed this year.
And here are the 6 third quarters with how much they’ve changed from the previous third quarter.
Once again, physician registrations in the third quarter this year saw the smallest increase of all the second quarters since 2016, by a long shot.
Before this year, the smallest increase was last, when registrations were up by 2.26%. Every third quarter since 2016 has seen a year-over-year increase. But this one’s barely an increase: less than 1%. The actual increase was 15 registrations. The year before, the third quarter registrations were up by 246, 16 times the amount of this year.
So, not only did we see the smallest quarter-over-quarter increase in third-quarter registrations over the last 6 years, but we also saw the smallest year-over-year increase. No matter how you look at it, there are fewer physicians registering in Alberta. Far fewer.
Now how do they break down by where they came from and where they went to?
Well, 122 of the 268 new registrations were from people trained in the province, compared to 142 in 2020. 146 were new registrations from outside Alberta and 12 were “restored”. In 2020, those numbers were 139 and 4, respectively, in the third quarter.
There were 6 registrations for physicians who returned to Alberta, compared to 9 in 2020. However, 20 of the 46 cancelled registrations were from physicians who left the province, as I pointed out earlier, leaving a net migration gain of 132 physicians when added to the 146 registrations from physicians trained from outside Alberta.
Of the remaining 26 cancellations, 17 retired and 1 died, compared to 22 and 3 in 2020. As well, there were 5 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 5 in the first quarter of 2020.
Finally, 3 physicians voluntarily erased their registrations. During the third quarter of 2020, 4 did so.
Oh, and I just want to point out that out of those 11,152 registered physicians, only 3,694 are registered in family medicine, which works out to be about 1 family doctor for every 1,202 residents. At the end of June 2021, Alberta had 1 family doctor for every 1,247 residents.