August 23, 2016 3:01 pm
Updated: August 23, 2016 3:07 pm

How much is your doctor making? What you need to know about Canada’s physician workforce

Health Minister Dr. Eric Hoskins doesn’t want to sacrifice health services for physician compensation. Mark McAllister reports.


There were more than 82,000 doctors in Canada in 2015, the ninth year in a row that the numbers of practicing physicians increased faster than the country’s population.

A new report released Tuesday by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) is shedding light on the country’s physician workforce.

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“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,” Geoff Ballinger, CIHI’s manager of physician information, said.

From how much doctors earn to where they’re practicing, here are the highlights from the report.

The doctor-to-patient ratio is at the country’s best: There were 82,198 doctors in Canada in 2015. There are now 228 doctors per 100,000 people – that’s more physicians per person than ever before.

The doctor-to-patient ratio has increased in all provinces since 2011. In 2015, Nova Scotia had the most physicians per 100,000 people at 261, followed by Newfoundland and Quebec.

READ MORE: 5 ways Canada’s physician workforce is changing

Prince Edward Island had the fewest doctors per 100,000 people at 181, followed by Saskatchewan’s 196 and Manitoba’s 204.

There are regional differences, though: Saskatchewan and Alberta saw “steep increases” of about five per cent compared to the year before, while Newfoundland and Labrador saw two per cent fewer doctors and New Brunswick saw a three per cent decline.

So, how much do doctors make? It depends on their specialization and where they live: Overall, total payments to doctors increased by four per cent to reach $25 billion in 2014-15. The average gross pay for a doctor sits at $339,000.

Keep in mind, the amount varies based on doctors’ specialties though: family physicians make about $271,000 while medical specialists make about $338,000 and surgical specialists earn $446,000.

READ MORE: By the numbers: Doctors’ fees across Canada

Their salaries are “virtually unchanged,” CIHI noted. The same report two years ago, for example, said that doctors earned about $328,000 gross. This is what they get to work with to cover his or her services, salary, everyday tasks, staff and a client list.

The average pay ranges from $258,000 in Nova Scotia to $366,000 in Alberta.

There are more women in the physician workforce: In 2015, nearly 40 per cent of all doctors in Canada were women, up from 2011’s 36.5 per cent. They’re especially focused in family medicine where 45 per cent of female doctors practice.

Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick had the highest proportion of women in their physician workforces overall, while P.E.I., Manitoba and Saskatchewan have the lowest percentages of female doctors.

No matter where they are in Canada, women represent a larger proportion of family medicine doctors than specialists.

How much does it cost to see the doctor? In the 2014-15 year, the average cost per service paid to doctors was $62.23. Family physicians billed about $45.61 for an average cost per service, while medical and surgical specialists billed $79.81 and $87.26 for their services.

The average doctor is about 50 years old: Family medicine doctors in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland are the youngest, with an average age of around 48 years old, while in P.E.I., they’re the oldest at 52 years old on average.

Specialists are also the youngest in Saskatchewan at 48 while P.E.I. and Ontario had the oldest specialists at about 53.

The average female doctor is 46 while the average male doctor is nearly 53.

READ MORE: Hospital wait times

Alberta and Saskatchewan have the highest number of doctors under 40 and the smallest number of doctors older than 60, too.

Some doctors are getting their education outside of the country: Exactly one in four Canadian doctors are internationally trained.

In 2015, nearly 29 per cent of family doctors and 23 per cent of specialists got their medical degrees outside of Canada. And the percentage of Canadian doctors trained internationally is creeping up, from 24.9 per cent in 2011 to 25.6 per cent in 2015.

It’s the highest in Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador and Manitoba and lowest in Quebec and P.E.I.

But Canadians educated abroad are coming back. In 2015, more doctors came back instead of practicing internationally resulting in a net gain of 110 physicians from international migration.

Another 739 doctors moved around within Canada – that’s about 0.9 per cent of the country’s physician workforce.

Read the full CIHI report here.

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