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.
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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.
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 9 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.
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 38 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 478.65 people. And that’s assuming no more people moved here in the last 6 months.
In other words, each doctor is theoretically responsible for an extra 77 people.
Next, the % change from quarter to quarter.
Looking at the data this way shows us some interesting information.
First, of the 15 quarters that the UCP government have been in power, 7 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 0.25%, 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 0.94% fewer registrations per quarter last year.
Let’s compare the fourth quarter of 2022 with previous fourth quarters.
The fourth quarter of 2022 saw the third largest year-over-year increase in the number of registered physicians. But it follows two fourth quarters in a row with a reduction in registrations.
Not only that, even if we add up the gains in 2019 and 2022, it’s not enough to overcome the losses in 2020 and 2021.
And finally, not only are the 278 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 13 fewer physician registrations now than it did during the last quarter that the NDP were still in charge.