Alberta’s physician registrations saw worst 2nd quarter since 2016

The province saw a year-over-year increase of only 0.2%. In 2016, it was 4.56%

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta recently released their 2nd quarter Physician Resources in Alberta update for 2021.

According to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta, there were 10,927 registered physicians at the end of June 2021. That’s a net increase of 61 over the previous quarter and a net increase of 22 over the same period in 2020.

Of the 18 communities listed in their report, only 5 saw a net increase of registered physicians over the last quarter. Unsurprisingly, Calgary and Edmonton had the largest net increase, at 32 and 23 respectively. Nowhere else had increases larger than 2.

Of the communities that saw a decrease, none of them saw more than a loss of 2. There were 9 more registrations among all other locations in the provinces (outside the initial 18).

That quarterly net increase of 61 was a result of 97 new physician registrations and the cancellation of 36 registrations.

Of those cancellations, about 7 were for physicians who left the province. As well, 4 of the new registrations were for physicians returned to Alberta and 56 who were trained outside of Alberta, which gives us a net migration of 53 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):

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 second 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 second quarter than in the previous quarter, it’s important to remember that every second quarter sees an increase over the first quarter.

Which is why it’s important to look at the second quarter performance to that of other second quarters. And when we do, we see that this is the worst quarter-over-quarter performance in the last 6 years.

And here are the 6 second quarters with how much they’ve changed from the previous second quarter.

Once again, physician registrations in the second 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 in 2019, when registrations were up by 2.40%. Every second quarter since 2016 has seen a year-over-year increase. But this one’s barely an increase: less than 1%. The actual increase was 22 registrations. The year before, the second quarter registrations were up by 306, 14 times the amount of this year.

So, not only did we see the smallest quarter-over-quarter decrease in second-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, there 22 of the 97 new registrations were from people trained in the province, compared to 31 in 2020. 56 were new registrations from outside Alberta, 11 were “restored”, and 4 came out of retirement. In 2020, those numbers were 66, 7, and 3, respectively, in the first quarter.

There were 4 registrations for physicians who returned to Alberta, compared to 9 in 2020. However, 7 of the 36 cancelled registrations were from physicians who left the province, as I pointed out earlier, leaving a net migration gain of 53 physicians when added to the 56 registrations from physicians trained from outside Alberta.

Of the remaining 33 cancellations, 11 retired and 3 died, compared to 11 and 2 in 2020. As well, there were 4 removed registrations. These were for physicians who were suspended or were licensed for a limited period of time and have since been removed from the register. This number was 3 in the first quarter of 2020.

Finally, 11 physicians voluntarily erased their registrations. Only 3 did so during the second quarter of 2020.

Oh, and I just want to point out that out of those 10,866 registered physicians, only 3,561 are registered in family medicine, which works out to be about 1 family doctor for every 1,247 residents. At the end of March 2021, Alberta had 1 family doctor for every 1,252 residents.

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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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