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LETTER: CMA doesn’t control number of doctors

In a letter in the Jan. 12 edition of the Saanich News under the heading, “CMA deserves blame for doctor shortage,” John Harris writes, “Doctors and the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) have done their best to make a medical degree both expensive and very difficult to get.”

I am a general practitioner/family doctor working in Victoria. I have been a member of the CMA for more than 30 years. Mr. Harris’s statement is not true.

Under the Canadian constitution, health care falls under provincial jurisdiction. The provinces regulate medical care and decide how many MDs to recognize.

Entrance into medical school is competitive. It usually takes at least seven years of dedicated work from the time a person starts medical school to the time the person can qualify for a licence (four years of med school and three years of family practice residency).

University education, including medical school, is expensive. Most doctors are not affiliated with a medical school. Doctors in general, and the CMA in particular, have no control over admissions to medical school nor over the cost of medical school. The CMA has no control over the number of MDs which the provinces train and recognize.

I reviewed Mr. Harris’s letter with the CMA Member Services, which suggested I add the following to my response: “After the health ministers cut enrolment in 1993, the CMA and other medical organizations advocated forcefully to reverse this cut. The result was that first-year enrolment hit a trough of 1,577 medical students in 1997, then increased steadily, reaching 2,954 in the fall of 2020, an 87 per cent increase.”

Over the last 10 years I have helped train scores of Island Medical Program/UBC medical students, partly in hopes that the students will return to Victoria when they finish training. A few have returned to Victoria.

Robert Shepherd


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