Whitehorse Health Meet

meetingLast week Premiers from 13 Canadian provinces and territories met up to discuss a whole range of socio-economic topics, but one that was glaringly amiss was the issue that keeps causing problems: a healthcare system incapable of providing adequate care on a viable budget.

Ultimately the simple fact is, the nation is aging.  As such, health care now takes up 50% of provincial revenues.  According to Statistics Canada, there are more Canadians 65+ than children under 15.  Indeed, there is  more than 16 percent in that age group which by 2051 will increase to one in four.

What this means is that the hospitals are too crowded because there are just not enough senior facilities or services for the elderly.  Because of this, people who need to be in the hospitals for surgery and stuff are waiting longer than should be the case.  In other words, alternatives need to be found for aging Canadians that a) are more appropriate for their needs and b) don’t waste the valuable resources being used in hospitals for patients who actually need them.

Thankfully though, things are changing.  In the news is the story of the near-completion of the Killarney Seniors Centre, and at the same time, Vancouver has plans for a second such facility.  According to Raymond Louie (who presented the idea for the first center), it is now up to a vote from the Council and a commitment to the anticipated $9m expenditure required.  It is hoped that both the federal and provincial government will take part in this.

Becoming a Geriatrician

Geriatric doctors do not exactly have the most well-respected reputation in the medical industry.  But sometimes, that can be an attraction.  At least it was for Dr. Adrian Wagg.  He kept on hearing that working with seniors was boring and certainly not even close to the glamor one gets as a heart surgeon.  It also wasn’t as exciting as being an ER doctor and the pay isn’t much to write home about either.  So why go into that field? (This is probably why there is such a shortage of these doctors – who, as our population ages and we fight off more diseases and there is an increase of seniors – are few and far between). Indeed, according to Statistics Canada, in Canada today there are 4.2 million seniors – a figure that is expected to increase to 9.8 million in the next 25 years. With only 230 geriatricians to serve them, there is a severe shortage.

Unpopular Medical Choice

Clearly it’s not a profession young doctors want to take on either.  Out of these 230 in Canada, a mere seven are under the age of 35.  It is said that a good 500 more Geriatricians are required for the country. This really shouldn’t be so difficult given that there are many qualified doctors there, who just choose other areas of expertise.  Looking at ER doctors for example, the country has 628 of these, with 46 being under the 35-year group. And when it comes to the antithesis of Geriatrics, Canada has a staggering 2,372 pediatricians, of whom 152 are younger than 35.

Geriatrics in the UK

Interestingly, the situation is somewhat different in the UK.  It is quite a popular choice of residency, perhaps due to the fact that it is one of the few specialties without caps on positions.  Dr. Wagg found one of his teachers very influential there and thus wanted to follow in his footsteps and today is director of geriatric medicine at the University of Alberta.  For him personally, become a Geriatrician was particularly attractive because it would enable him to work in both academia and practice as a doctor.  It has also been pointed out how important it is to understand the ageing population as truthfully, every patient is aging!  So more medical students really need to consider this field as a career option.