Lethbridge doctors at 2nd lowest level since UCP took office

Lethbridge doctors are responsible for 82 more people than they were 3 years ago.

Recently, I wrote a news story about the number of registered physicians in Alberta.

I decided to go through the physician registrations from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta to see what information I could find about doctors in the region specifically, rather than the province as a whole.

First, here’s the number of registrations per year for each of the health zones since 2016.


There’s some interesting data in there.

Every health zone saw an increase in the number of registered physicians in that zone. Except one. The South Zone was the only health zone to see a drop in physician registrations between the fourth quarter of 2021 and the fourth quarter of 2022.

Calgary saw the largest increase, at 173. That shouldn’t be surprising, given that they’re the largest city in the province. Naturally, Edmonton had the second highest.

Now, let’s look at Lethbridge physicians specifically. Below is the number of registrations for each quarter since 2016, as well as the quarter-over-quarter percent change.

QuarterRegistrations% change
2023 Q1275-1.08%
2022 Q42781.46%
2022 Q3274-1.44%
2022 Q22780.72%
2022 Q1276-4.50%
2021 Q4289-2.69%
2021 Q32971.71%
2021 Q2292-0.34%
2021 Q1293-2.98%
2020 Q4302-2.58%
2020 Q33105.44%
2020 Q22941.03%
2020 Q1291-7.91%
2019 Q43162.60%
2019 Q33084.76%
2019 Q22941.03%
2019 Q1291-0.34%
2018 Q42922.46%
2018 Q32851.42%
2018 Q22811.81%
2018 Q1276-2.13%
2017 Q4282-1.05%
2017 Q32854.01%
2017 Q22740.74%
2017 Q12720.74%
2016 Q42701.12%
2016 Q32672.30%
2016 Q22610.38%
2016 Q1260-0.01%

Here it is in graph form.

First, the total number of registrations.

We see that more or less, physician registrations in Lethbridge had been rising for about 4 years, hitting their peak in the final quarter of 2019. Over the past three years or so, however, the numbers have been dropping. There was a bit of a surge during the start of the pandemic, but the last 10 quarters have completely wiped out those gains.

Not only that, but throughout 2022, physician registrations were at some of their lowest levels, since the 2nd quarter of 2017, when they were at 274. During 2022, registrations hovered around the 276 mark, varying between only 274 and 278.

And 2023 isn’t off to any better of a start.

At the end of 2019, registrations had peaked at 316. That means, that even with an additional 4 doctors between the third and fourth quarters of last year, we’re still short 41 physician registrations.

Keep in mind that the population of Lethbridge has also increased during that time, which means that not only do we have fewer registered physicians, but the ones we do have are having to serve more people.

In July 2019, Lethbridge’s metropolitan area had a population of 126,927. That means 1 doctor for every 401.67 people.

By comparison, there were 133,064 people living in Lethbridge by July 2022. The ratio of physicians to people has jumped to 1 for every 483.87 people. And that’s assuming no more people moved here in the last 9 months.

In other words, each doctor is theoretically responsible for an extra 82 people.

Next, the % change from quarter to quarter.

Looking at the data this way shows us some interesting information.

First, of the 16 quarters that the UCP government have been in power, 8 of them had negative growth. Not only that, but 5 of them were larger decreases than the other 4 periods of decreases in the previous 3 years.

In fact, in the first quarter of 2020—the start of the COVID-19 pandemic—Lethbridge saw its largest single decrease in physician registrations during this 5-year period.

Lethbridge lost 25 physician registrations as the pandemic was starting. That’s 1 in 13 physicians.

If we average all the increases and decreases since the UCP took office, we see a net decrease of 0.23% in Lethbridge, which works out to a loss of 1 registration every 4 quarters, on average.

Over the last 4 quarters, Lethbridge saw 2 quarters with an increase in registrations, but it wasn’t enough to make up for the losses in the other 2. If we add them all up, Lethbridge averaged 0.08% fewer registrations per quarter last year.

Let’s compare the first quarter of 2023 with previous first quarters.

The first quarter of 2023 saw the only the second year-over-year decrease in the number of registered physicians of the 7 most recent first quarters.

For the 4 first quarters that the UCP have been in power, we’ve had 2 decreases and one no change. And the one first quarter with an increase was less than 1%. We have seen an average first quarter change in physician registrations for Lethbridge of -1.37%,

And finally, not only are the 275 physician registrations lower than they were at their peak at the end of 2019, they’re lower than they were when the UCP took power.

Lethbridge has 16 fewer physician registrations now than it did during the last quarter that the NDP were still in charge.

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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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