February 11, 2016

Saskatchewan Physician Numbers Continue to Rise

Today, Health Minister Dustin Duncan confirmed that the number of new physicians in Saskatchewan continues to rise, with nearly 650 more doctors practising in the province since 2007. This represents a 40 per cent increase in overall physician numbers compared to 2007.

“Our government was elected on the promise of training, recruiting, and retaining more doctors,” Duncan said. “This announcement today confirms, while there is still more work to do, that we have taken action on this important health care file.”

A number of campaign platform promises from the 2007 and 2011 elections have resulted in the substantial growth in physicians, including:

  • implementing the Saskatchewan International Physician Practice Assessment (SIPPA), which has resulted in almost 190 more doctors providing services in the province, 96 per cent of whom are practicing in rural Saskatchewan;
  • the development of a rural physician locum pool to provide coverage and assistance for rural family physicians to ensure a work-life balance;
  • forgiving up to $120,000 in Saskatchewan student loans for new doctors that practice in communities of less than 10,000 people; and
  • doubling the number of post-graduate physician training seats at the College of Medicine, and increasing undergraduate medical training seats from 60 to 100.

“While the growth of international physicians has helped our overall physician supply, I am happy to say that we are now seeing more locally trained physicians stay in the province after graduation,” Duncan said. “Overall, the retention rate of family medicine graduates trained at the University of Saskatchewan has jumped by 17 per cent over the past two years – from 58 per cent to 75 per cent.” 

Saskatchewan is also affirming its commitment to improving access to physician services by releasing a planning document that forecasts the need for family physicians and specialists in Saskatchewan over the long term.  A Planning Tool for Physician Resources in Saskatchewan outlines options for the number and mix of specialists and family physicians.

“This information will allow us to take a longer-term strategic approach to strengthening and sustaining our physician workforce,” Duncan added. “The current rate of growth in the number of physicians in Saskatchewan exceeds what is recommended in the report.  I am pleased that our recruitment efforts are paying off.” 

The document forecasts a need for approximately 350 additional physicians by 2022.  The recent significant growth in the physician workforce will be factored in as future resource allocations are planned, based on factors such as population growth, progress of team-based care implementation, and health provider scope of practice.

A wide range of stakeholders were consulted while the report was being developed, including health regions, the Saskatchewan Medical Association, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan, the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Medicine, saskdocs, and medical students and residents. The report is posted at www.saskatchewan.ca.  

In total, more than 2,300 physicians are licensed to practise in Saskatchewan.