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Lethbridge lost 14 more doctors since last June

The South Zone is the only health zone that has seen a loss in physician registrations between 2018 and 2022.

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. Keep in mind that the 2022 numbers are for just two quarters, and they may change throughout the rest of the year.

2022202120202019201820172016
South596589607630603585562
Calgary4,9014,9974,9884,8844,7694,6274,465
Central750760777753723705697
Edmonton4,1384,2534,1934,1214,0443,9153,786
North535545546549535535538
Registration Statistics, 2020–2016, CPSA

There’s some interesting data in there.

Every health zone saw a drop in the number of registered physicians in that zone, except for the South Zone.

Now, to be fair, the first half of the year always sees a drop after the last half of the previous year, so the fact that nearly every health zone had fewer registered physicians shouldn’t be that surprising.

What we should examine is what that drop looked like compared to previous drops.

As well, the data shows that 2019 saw increases over 2018, so 2022 registrations were still higher than 2018 registrations in most zones, even with the drop from 2019 numbers.

That being said, these should be taken in context. Here’s how much different the 2022 numbers are to the 2018 numbers.

% change
(2022 vs 2018)
South-1.16%
Calgary2.77%
Central3.73%
Edmonton2.32%
North0.00%

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 11 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 at the end of the second quarter of 2022, the number of physicians registered in the South Zone made up 5.46% of all registrations in the province. Last year, it was 5.29%, and 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 Zone has seen since at least 2016.

And although it seems as though it’s tied with 2020, 2020 was actually 5.463%. In contrast, 2022 was 5.458%.

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
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 couple of years 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 completely wiped out those gains.

Not only that, but physician registrations are now at one of their lowest levels since the 1st quarter of 2018, when they were at 275.

Keep in mind that the population of Lethbridge has increased during that time, which means we have three more registered physicians for more people.

At the end of 2017 (just before the first quarter of 2018), Lethbridge had a population of 96,515. That means 1 doctor for every 350.96 people.

By comparison, there were 101,799 people living in Lethbridge by the end of 2021, just before the first quarter of 2022. The ratio of physicians to people has jumped to 1 for ever 366.18 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 15 people.

Next, the % change from quarter to quarter.

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

First, of the 12 quarters that the UCP government have been in power, 6 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 -0.02%, which works out to a loss of 1 registrations every quarter, on average.

Last year, Lethbridge saw only 1 quarter with an increase in registrations, but 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. That rate drops to 1.76% fewer if we tack on the first quarter of 2022.

Let’s compare the second quarter of 2022 with previous second quarters.

The second quarter of 2022 saw the smallest year-over-year increase in the number of registered physicians. That’s not including the decrease seen last year.

But even with that increase, Lethbridge’s second quarter total registered physicians of 278 is still less than they were last year. Not only that, but they’re lower than any other second quarter since 2017, when it was at 274.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news stories, focusing on municipal, provincial, and federal politics, specializing in investigative journalism and critical analysis from a leftist political lens. He also writes regular editorials on general politics and social issues.

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