Alberta saw fewer physician registrations at end of 2020

Compared to the 3rd quarter of 2020, the year ended with 32 fewer physicians, the largest 4th quarter decrease in at least 5 years.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta recently released their 4th quarter Physician Resources in Alberta update for 2020.

According to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta, there were 11,120 registered physicians at the end of December. That’s a net decrease of 32 during this past quarter and a net increase of 172 during the same period in 2019.

Of the 19 communities listed in their report, 10 saw a net decrease of registered physicians over the last quarter. Unsurprisingly, Calgary and Edmonton had the largest net decrease, at 13 and 10 respectively. Lethbridge was next, at a loss of 8. Fort McMurray and Sherwood Park were tied with the largest net increase, at 3 new doctors each.

Support independent journalism

That quarterly net decrease of 32 was a result of 91 new physician registrations and the cancellation of 121 registration.

Of those cancellations, about half of them (60) were for physicians who left the province. As well, 16 of the new registrations were for physicians returned to Alberta, which gives us a net migration of 24 physicians out of 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):

Oct–Dec 202011,120-0.3%
Jul–Sep 202011,1522.3%
Apr–Jul 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%

Last week, the UCP caucus tweeted that Alberta had gained doctors, with Q4 2020’s 11,120 registration being 172 higher than that of Q4 2019.

Yes, it’s true that registrations increased by 173 in the fourth quarter of 2020, compared to the same quarter in the previous year.

But something interesting shows up in that data.

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

This is the worst quarter-over-quarter performance in the last 5 years.

During that time, there have been only 2 fourth quarters that saw a decrease over the previous quarter. The 2020 fourth quarter was one of them, and the decrease was nearly 10 times the size of the other decrease.

The fourth quarter typically has the second lowest net increases to physician registrations in any given year, so the fact that this is the largest net decrease of any of the 5 fourth quarters is significant.

And here are the 5 fourth quarters with how much they’ve changed from the previous fourth quarter.

Once again, physician registrations in the fourth quarter this year saw the smallest increase of all the fourth quarters since 2016, less than half of the 2016 increase of 3.5% under the NDP.

So, while it is true that physician registrations are up by 172 over the second quarter in 2020, this is the smallest fourth quarter increase in the last 5 years.

Every year since 2016 has seen a smaller increase in the fourth quarter than the previous year, but this is significantly smaller.

The other fourth-quarter increases shrunk by 0.24 to 0.39 percentage points, with an average of 0.31. The increase in Q4 2020, however, was a full percentage point smaller than the 2019 increase and nearly 2 points smaller than the 2016 increase.

Oh, and I just want to point out that out of those 11,120 registered physicians, only 3,873 are registered in family medicine, which works out to be about 1 family doctor for every 1,150 residents.

Support independent journalism

By Kim Siever

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

2 replies on “Alberta saw fewer physician registrations at end of 2020”

Unfortunately this doesn’t capture those of us who are getting licenses elsewhere – I’m getting mine in BC but keeping mine in Alberta for now as its hard to make such a big move unplanned. I think your point at the end about Family Docs is important as it is more family docs leaving proportionately. This will cost the system much more in the future.

Thanks for commenting, Christine. I’ve heard similar stories from other doctors, moving to other jurisdictions but keeping their registrations active in Alberta.

Comment on this story

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: