Friday, January 21, 2011

Canada: 1 doctor for 438 in south; 1 for 3,333 in north...Shame!

By Shannon Proudfoot, Postmedia News, in Montreal Gazette, January 20, 2011
In southern Canada, one doctor cares for an average of 438 people, but in the country's northern regions, one physician is responsible for the health of as many as 3,333 people, according to a new report from the Conference Board of Canada.
The most acute shortages are in northern Saskatchewan, Nunavut and northern Newfoundland and Labrador, the latest report from the organization's Centre for the North research institute finds.
"We hear Canadians talking all the time about the fact that there's a shortage of doctors, we hear people talk about the fact that they can't get a family doctor," says Derrick Hynes, director of the centre. "If you look at this issue form a north-south perspective, it's even more pronounced."
Across southern Canada, each physician is responsible for between 384 and 625 patients on average, the report finds, but in northern Saskatchewan, the ratio is 3,333 to one, and it's 2,000 to one in Nunavut. The most recent census in 2006 counted just 10 physicians in northern Saskatchewan, 15 in Nunavut and 20 in northern Newfoundland and Labrador.
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This story reminds me of the statement made in a homily delivered by deceased Trinity College Professor, Romney Moseley, at an ordination service in March 15,1993, in a small church in rural Ontario. Most of the students in Toronto would not accept a posting to this part of the province; they insist on working in urban centres like Toronto, he said then.
And there is a significant divide in our deployment of professional services, just another bit of evidence of the imbalances that exist betwen the have's and the have-not's within our own country. We educate the best and the brightest in our southern Canadian universities and colleges and they, for the most part, stay in those areas, leaving the north, and the more rural areas depleted of resources, where they are most needed.
And we continue, as a nation, to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to pleas from those less well served, while proudly boasting of our accomplishments in the numbers and the qualities of our graduates.
In areas like teaching, social work, medicine, and law, why could there not be an incentive program, sponsored by the federal government, to fund the education of those who choose to work for a minimum number of years in the most remote and least serviced areas of the country.
Call it the Canadian Bridge Corps, making authentic bridges to those communities literally starving for attention, for decent health care, for decent social services and for decent education.
There is a spirit in the country to which the current federal government appears to be unaware.
It is the spirit of generosity, of compassion and of frontiership and courage. It is the spirit that built the country's expanse, its communities from the prairies and the forests, along the rivers and the lakes before there was adequate tranportation and adequate housing and schooling and health care facilities anywhere.
And there is no doubt about the continuing gaps in the needs of Canadian people who are not receiving adequate attention.
Perhaps a new federal government, a more compassionate and a more aware and a more socially-conscious centre-left government could actually begin to address some of these glaring needs. The costs of prevention would be far less than the costs of remediation after the disasters that our failures produce.

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