B.C. medical specialists struggle to find work
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William Cunningham, president of the B.C. Medical Association. Cunningham has been practising medicine since 1986 and works in a hospital emergency department on Vancouver Island. The report doesnat address the issue of whether there are too many specialists for the Canadian health care system, in which operating room time and budgets are fixed. But it makes it clear that doctors are competing for resources, including operating rooms, hospital beds and money to pay their fees. The report also pinpoints reasons why newly certified specialists are having trouble finding work: older doctors are delaying retirement; established surgeons are protecting their precious (often only one day a week) operating room time so young doctors arenat getting the hospital/surgical positions they covet; and a lack of cohesion in medical resource planning and coordination between medical schools, governments and hospital or health care authorities. As well, there are relatively new categories of health professionals encroaching on doctorsa territory, such as advanced practice nurses, nurse practitioners and physician assistants. Respondents to the survey were graduates of Canadaas 17 medical schools and/or Canadian residency training programs in fields such as cardiac surgery, neurosurgery, nuclear medicine, ophthalmology, radiation oncology, urology, critical care, gastroenterology, general surgery, hematology and medical microbiology. The report does not include data on family doctors. While about one in five specialists or subspecialists said they are having challenges finding jobs, another 22 per cent of newly certified specialists said they are taking locum positions or other various part-time positions. Locums assume another doctoras duties during holidays or extended absences. In the survey, 40 per cent said they werenat happy they had to do that. The report draws attention to the fact that more than half of the respondents said they hadnat received any career counselling about the most promising job prospects while doing their training. They also complained that there are inadequate avenues for finding out where the jobs might be. Cunningham said since taxpayers are largely sponsoring medical education, there should be a fix to the problem through better planning of medical human resource needs.