Cost of paying Canada's doctors in 2015 was $25 billion: report

Canadian Institute for Health Information also tallied the number of doctors across the country in 2015 at more than 82,000

TORONTO – A new report shows the number of physicians in Canada grew last year as did the overall cost of their services, which rose almost four per cent to $25 billion.

The report by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) tallied the number of doctors across the country in 2015 at more than 82,000.

For the ninth year running, the number of physicians increased at a faster rate than the population. There are now more doctors per person than ever before – 228 for every 100,000 Canadians.

The average gross clinical payment for a physician remained virtually unchanged at $339,000. But this amount varied by type of specialty: on average, family doctors were paid $271,000; medical specialists received $338,000; and surgical specialists took in $446,000.

CIHI says the average gross clinical payment per physician varied across the county – from $258,000 in Nova Scotia to $366,000 in Alberta.

Geoff Ballinger, CIHI manager of physician information, said it’s important to realize that in most cases the average payment estimates don’t include practice overhead costs such as staff salaries, office rent, and medical equipment and supplies.

Based on the number of MD degrees awarded by Canadian universities, the number of physicians is likely to continue expanding. In 2015, Canadian universities awarded 2,817 MD degrees, a slight increase from the previous year. Between 2011 and 2015, the number of MD degrees awarded in Canada increased by approximately 12 per cent.

“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,” Ballinger said in a release.

Also from the report:

• There were regional differences in the changes to the number of doctors. Saskatchewan and Alberta each saw increases of approximately five per cent over the previous year, while there was a two per cent decrease in Newfoundland and Labrador, and a three per cent decline in New Brunswick.

• The number of physicians per capita has gone up 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 rise. In 2015, almost 40 per cent of all physicians in Canada were female, up from 36.5 per cent in 2011. By comparison, the number of male practitioners grew by 7.3 per cent.

• Women accounted for a larger proportion of family medicine physicians (45 per cent ) than specialists (35 per cent).

• In 2014-2015, the average fee-per-service payment to physicians was $62.23. Family doctors’ average billing was $45.61 per service, while the average for medical and surgical specialists was $79.81 and $87.26 per service, respectively.

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