Medical students questioning whether Ontario is the place they want to practice when they graduate


NNL HealthbeatTHUNDER BAY – Healthbeat – “To be a part of the health care system and to provide care for patients in Ontario is a humbling opportunity. But when the government imposes decisions on doctors without consultation I have to wonder whether Ontario is really the place where I want to hang my shingle,” says Stephanie Kenny Co-Chair, Ontario Medical Student Association.

The Ontario Medical Students’ Association (OMSA) has been encouraged by the Ontario Government’s focus on increasing access to care for patients by training more medical students and increasing the supply of doctors in the province. Unfortunately, the OMSA states, “The government’s actions during the negotiating process and in particular their decision to unilaterally cut fees and services has medical students questioning whether Ontario is the place they want to practice when they graduate”.

The OMSA in a press statement says, “Over 950 students were accepted to medical schools across the province and over 850 will graduate this year. Medical students, much like every other young professional starting their career, look for opportunities to develop their skills and utilize their training. The recent decision by the government to impose cuts is sending the wrong message. Students are now more seriously considering other jurisdictions that are giving their doctors greater respect for the role they play in the health care system.

“In addition to looking for a good place to practice students must also consider how best to pay back their student debt. Ontario currently has the highest medical school tuition rates in the country at nearly $19,500 per year. As a result, students finishing medical school are saddled with sizable loans and carry an average debt load of $150,000”.

Given their level of commitment and considerable investment in medical school, it’s important that the government create favorable working conditions for new graduates, so they may contribute to the health care system by providing the best possible care to patients.

“A generation of young physicians will be making decisions about where to put down roots. The government’s unilateral action is disheartening to future doctors and sends the wrong message to medical graduates. Medical students want to practice in a positive environment where the government will work collaboratively with doctors to meet our shared goals for patients in Ontario,” adds David Mikhail, Co-Chair, OMSA.

Quick Facts from the OMSA:

The Ontario government’s plan to unilaterally impose fee cuts on physicians will have major consequences on the province’s ability to recruit new physicians and retain those who are practicing here.

  • Ontario medical school enrolment has increased from approximately 530 spots in 1994 to 960 in 2011;
  • In the next 5-year period Ontario will be producing about 200 more medical school graduates annually than in the previous 5-year period;
  • In the early-mid 1990’s, in Ontario, the government’s aggressive unilateral approach to managing the fiscal issues of the day resulted in dissatisfied, under-paid, and over-worked physician population and it culminated in a ‘brain-drain’;
  • During this period, practicing physicians left Ontario for other jurisdictions, the province was unable to attract physicians from other jurisdictions, and many new graduates from Ontario medical schools chose not to set up practice in Ontario but to go to other provinces and/or the United States;
  • Current graduate retention rates will decline to those seen under similar circumstances in the 1990s. This would imply that rather than retaining 732 of those 950 graduates, Ontario will only retain 625 per year (a net loss of 107 per year) over the next 5 years.
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