More doctors, but average payments to physicians virtually unchanged

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August 23, 2016 — The number of physicians in Canada increased to more than 82,000 in 2015, according to new numbers released by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI). For the ninth year in a row, the number of physicians increased at a faster rate than the population, resulting in more physicians per person than ever before — 228 doctors per 100,000 population.

According to Physicians in Canada, 2015, although total payments to physicians increased by 4% from the previous year to reach $25 billion in 2014–2015, the average gross clinical payment per physician remained virtually unchanged at $339,000. This amount varied by type of physician specialty: on average, family physicians received $271,000; medical specialists received $338,000; and surgical specialists received $446,000.

"Understanding the supply, payments and activities of physicians across the country helps us to understand not only how many physicians there are and how much we pay for their services, but also how health care resources are allocated," says Geoff Ballinger, CIHI's manager of Physician Information. "It's important to realize, however, that the average payment estimates are gross amounts that in most cases include the overhead costs of running physician practices, such as staff salaries, medical equipment and supplies, and office rent."

There were regional differences in the changes to the number of physicians. Saskatchewan and Alberta each saw increases of approximately 5% over the previous year, while there was a 2% decrease in Newfoundland and Labrador and a 3% decline in New Brunswick.

The average gross clinical payment per physician also varied across the county. The average ranged from $258,000 in Nova Scotia to $366,000 in Alberta.

Facts and figures

  • The number of physicians per person has increased in all provinces since 2011. In 2015, Nova Scotia had the most physicians per 100,000 population (261), followed by Newfoundland and Labrador (243) and Quebec (242). The provinces with the fewest physicians per 100,000 were P.E.I. (181), Saskatchewan (196) and Manitoba (204).
  • The proportion of female doctors in Canada continued to grow.
    • In 2015, nearly 40% of all physicians in Canada were female, up from 36.5% in 2011.
    • Women represented a larger proportion of family medicine physicians (45%) than specialists (35%).
  • Based on the number of MD degrees awarded by Canadian universities, the number of physicians is likely to continue increasing. In 2015, Canadian universities awarded 2,817 MD degrees, representing a slight increase from the previous year. Between 2011 and 2015, the number of MD degrees awarded in Canada increased by approximately 12%.

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