About as many doctors left Alberta in 2021 as in the prior 2 years combined

The number of doctors who left Alberta last year was nearly equal to the number who left in the prior two years combined, according to numbers from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta.

The figures show 140 doctors left the province in 2021, compared to 87 in 2020 and 54 in 2019.

“Physicians in Alberta have had a very challenging time over the last few years with a government that’s been very confrontational in their relation with doctors,” said Dr. Katharine Smart, president of the Canadian Medical Association.

The relationship between doctors and the UCP government has been acrimonious in recent years after the province cancelled its master agreement with the Alberta Medical Association (AMA) in early 2020.

“Some doctors in Alberta have just decided they can’t keep working in that province. They just don’t feel the trust or relationship there.”

Accounting for retirements, deaths and those removed from the registry as well as incoming new doctors, the number of Alberta physicians grew by 45 in 2021.

That figure represents by far the lowest growth of the physician workforce in the last four years.

In 2020, the workforce grew by 161 compared to growth of 262 recorded in 2019, 283 in 2018 and 328 in 2017.

“We’ve known for some time, anecdotally, that we’ve got a problem in Alberta,” said AMA president Dr. Michelle Warren.

Warren is leading renewed negotiations with the province over a new master agreement, and says physicians look at more than dollar figures in choosing where to work.

“It’s also lifestyle. It’s the ability to work in medicine the way you want to work,” she said. “It really is that balance, that relationship.”

Alberta Health says hundred of physicians enter and leave practice every year for a wide range of reasons.

“We’re committed to increasing our physician supply and we’re working with the AMA to address the strain on physician practices, as part of our work toward a new agreement,” reads an Alberta Health statement. 

Accounting for all decreases, a total of 568 doctors left their jobs in 2021 compared to 382 two years earlier.

Last year saw the arrival of 613 new doctors, about the same as the 619 in 2020 but fewer than the 686 recorded in 2017. 

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