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Lethbridge has fewest registered doctors since 2018

For two years in a row, Lethbridge has seen record fourth-quarter decreases in physician registrations.

Last month, 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:

202120202019201820172016
South589607630603585562
Calgary4,9974,9884,8844,7694,6274,465
Central760777753723705697
Edmonton4,2534,1934,1214,0443,9153,786
North545546549535535538
Registration Statistics, 2020–2016, CPSA

There’s some interesting data in there.

For example, the Central Zone, South Zone, and North Zone are the only ones to have seen a decline in the number of physicians. That’s a loss of 17 for Central, 18 for South, and 1 for North, which works out to -2.19%, -2.97% and -0.18%.

Now, to be fair, 2019 saw increases over 2018 in all health zones, so 2020 registrations were still higher than 2018 registrations in Central and North, even with the drop from 2019 numbers.

That being said, these should be taken in context. Here’s how much different the 2021 numbers are to the 2018 numbers.

% change
(2021 vs 2018)
South-2.32%
Calgary4.72%
Central5.12%
Edmonton5.17%
North1.87%
Registration Statistics, 2020–2016, CPSA

What we see here is that when compared to the 2018 registration numbers, the South Zone is the only zone that has seen a decrease in registrations. In fact, the South Zone has only 4 more registrations than it had at the end of 2017. And that’s for the entire health zone, not just Lethbridge.

Not only that, but last year, the number of physicians registered in the South Zone made up 5.29% of all registrations in the province. The previous year, it was 5.46% of all registrations. It was 5.76% in 2019 and 5.65% in 2018. This is the lowest percentage the South has seen since at least 2016.

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
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 year or so, the numbers have been dropping. There was a bit of a surge during the start of the pandemic, but the last 5 quarters have pretty much wiped out those gains.

Not only that, but physician registrations are now at their lowest level since the 3rd quarter of 2018, when they were at 285.

Next, the % change from quarter to quarter.

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

First, of the 11 quarters that the UCP government have been in power, 5 of them had negative growth. Not only that, but 4 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 increase of only 0.07%, which works out to only 2 new registrations every quarter, on average.

During 2021, Lethbridge saw only 1 quarter with an increase in registrations, and it wasn’t enough to make up for the losses in the other 3. If we add them all up, Lethbridge averaged 1.08% fewer registrations per quarter last year.

Let’s compare the fourth quarter of 2021 with previous fourth quarters.

While Lethbridge saw the largest fourth quarter increase over the last 5 years in 2019—the first fourth quarter under the UCP—the most recent fourth quarter gave us the largest decrease in the last 5 years.

In fact, when combined with the decrease from the previous fourth quarter, it completely wiped out the increase of the previous two fourth quarter gains.


Not only that, but the losses over the last two fourth quarters was so large that over the 6 years of this reporting period, Lethbridge was left with a net loss of 0.14%.

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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.

2 replies on “Lethbridge has fewest registered doctors since 2018”

In the fourth quarter of 2021, there was an inflow of 19 new grads from U of A and 22 from U of C, but there was an outflow of 17 and 20, respectively. That’s total net gain of 4 med students from the two schools.

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