Increases to payments to Canadian-based physicians are slowing across the country, according to the latest information published by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI). In 2016–2017, total clinical payments to physicians increased 2.8% (to $26.4 billion), which is the lowest single-year increase since CIHI began reporting this data in 2000.

In the same data year, average gross clinical payments to physicians remained virtually unchanged at $342,000, a 0.6% increase over the previous year. Average gross clinical payments ranged from $274,000 in Newfoundland and Labrador to $386,000 in Alberta (Nova Scotia data excluded). For most physicians, gross clinical payments cover the costs of running their practice, so they are not equivalent to take-home pay.

More physicians per Canadian than ever

In 2017, there were 86,644 physicians in the country, equivalent to 234 physicians per 100,000 population.

The report also found that the number of physicians continued to grow at a faster rate than the population for the 11th consecutive year. Between 2013 and 2017, the Canadian population increased by 4.6% while the physician population grew by 11.5%.

Physicians in Canada: Facts and figures

  • Average gross clinical payments to family medicine physicians decreased by just under 1% in 2016–2017 to $277,000. Payments to medical specialists and surgical specialists both experienced a slight increase of about 1%, bringing their average gross clinical payment to $357,000 and $477,000, respectively.
  • Between 2013 and 2017, the number of female physicians increased by 19.2% and the number of male physicians increased by 6.8%.
  • About 30% of family physicians and 22.5% of specialists received their medical degree outside of Canada.
  • Medical graduates from South Africa, India and the United Kingdom collectively represented about 30% of the internationally trained physician workforce.


“Over the last few years, we’ve seen an increasing number of physicians per person and slowed growth in average gross clinical payments across the country. To optimize efficiency and ensure that health care is sustainable, the provinces and territories can use our information to help determine the proper balance of physician supply and payments needed to best serve their populations.” — Geoff Ballinger, Manager, Physician Information, CIHI

About CIHI

The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) is an independent, not-for-profit organization that provides essential information on Canada’s health systems and the health of Canadians.

We provide comparable and actionable data and information that are used to accelerate improvements in health care, health system performance and population health across Canada. Our stakeholders use our broad range of health system databases, measurements and standards, together with our evidence-based reports and analyses, in their decision-making processes. We protect the privacy of Canadians by ensuring the confidentiality and integrity of the health care information we provide.

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Physicians in Canada

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Olivia Olesinski