With Saudi Arabia recalling all of its medical residents by 31 August, Canada’s medical institutions are set to receive a huge blow. Despite being lauded for its universal healthcare insurance program, Canada’s patients have been suffering from a national doctor shortage that is crippling their access to proper treatment.
Compared to fifteen of the top developed countries, such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, and France, Canada has the lowest number of doctors per capita, with an estimated 2.6 doctors per 1,000 people (OECD, 2018). Provincial governments are notably averse to increasing the necessary funding, citing flawed reasons such as a desire to prevent future doctors from being unemployed. Meanwhile, in Quebec and British Columbia, two of the country’s wealthiest provinces, 15-20% of the population does not have access to a regular family physician. In Ontario, the wait time to register with a family doctor is about a month. Arranging a referral with a specialist is just as difficult, with an average wait time of over a month.
In light of the dire shortage of doctors, it should come as no surprise that Canadian hospitals have been leaning heavily on the population of Saudi Arabian medical residents, whose presence is subsidised by their government. For the opportunity to train in a Canadian facility, Saudi Arabia pays around $100,000 per medical resident. In cities like Hamilton, Saudi Arabian doctors-in-training account for about 15% of the resident workforce, and their loss will have a profound effect on local hospitals and patients.