Canada is addressing current and emerging labour demands in health care
June 8, 2023 Mississauga, Ontario Employment and Social Development Canada
In recent years Canada’s health care workers have been challenged like never before and this has led to unprecedented levels of burnout, absences, and turnover. These workforce challenges are not only affecting the hard-working health workers we rely on, they’re also affecting patients who are experiencing long wait times for surgeries, emergency room closures, and difficulty accessing family health services.
We know that without a sustainable, efficient, and resilient health workforce, Canadians cannot access and receive the quality care they need, when and where they need it.
That’s why, today, the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Health, on behalf of the Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, announced that the Government of Canada is investing $78.5 million in three projects that will help to train and retain more health care workers, under the Sectoral Workforce Solutions Program.
This announcement advances the Government of Canada’s support for a more sustainable health workforce, with a focus on better data to support workforce planning, and tools to support better retention and recruitment of health workers in Canada. This was one of the shared health priorities as agreed to by the Canadian government and provinces and territories, outlined in the Working Together to Improve Health Care for Canadians Plan. This plan was supported through a Budget 2023 commitment of close to $200 billion over 10 years, including $46.2 billion in new funding to provinces and territories, to improve health care services for Canadians. As part of these agreements, provinces and territories are also being asked to streamline foreign credential recognition for internationally educated health professionals, and to advance labour mobility, starting with multi-jurisdictional credential recognition for key health professionals.
As a complement to this investment, the Medical Council of Canada is receiving $28.8 million for their project, Modernizing Mandatory Physician Activities Enabling Safe Patient Care, which aims to enhance patient care by developing a competency assessment framework for international medical graduates, creating a National Registry of Physicians, and modernizing the examination process for licensing physicians.
The National Registry of Physicians will serve as the first nationally integrated list of data on physicians in Canada. This registry will allow for improved collaboration across jurisdictions by housing valuable physician data in a centralized location, while helping to support the mobility of physicians to areas where the need is greatest, ensuring that Canadians can receive the highest level of medical care. By 2024, 70% of physicians in Canada are expected to have registered in the National Registry.
The Foundation for Advancing Family Medicine, the research arm of the College of Family Physicians of Canada, will also be receiving an investment of $45.3 million for their project, Team Primary Care: Training for Transformation. This project will support the training of health care practitioners—such as family physicians, physician assistants, family practice nurses, pharmacists, Indigenous traditional healers, midwives, and medical laboratory technologists—to practice team-based comprehensive primary care. The training and tools developed by this project will support practitioners in working together, by identifying types of work and making the most of available skills. It will help reduce critical labour shortages, improve the ability of workers to move to new locations, and make it easier to hire Indigenous practitioners and internationally educated health professionals. Approximately 5,000 primary care professionals, trainees and clinical preceptors will participate in this project, creating a model for team-based care that can be scaled across Canada. Additional capacity and expanded team-based care will enable more Canadians—including Indigenous people and those living in rural settings—to have access to comprehensive primary care.
In addition, the Canadian Alliance of Medical Laboratory Professionals Regulators is receiving $4.4 million in funding for their project, Micro-Credentials and Work Integration Supports in the Medical Laboratory Technology Profession, which will address labour shortages for medical laboratory technologists (MLTs) by helping science degree holders and internationally educated MLTs to enter the Canadian workforce. This project will modernize the assessment process for internationally educated MLTs and create an online simulation of the Canadian laboratory environment to help applicants improve their soft skills.
“Our health care system is facing serious labour shortages with medical professionals being in high demand across Canada. Through our Sectoral Workforce Solutions Program, we’re addressing challenges in-demand health care occupations are facing. Our government is making sure that Canadian health workers, including women, Indigenous people, persons with disabilities, newcomers and other marginalized people, can meet requirements to stay current within the health sector. These investments will ensure Canadian patients continue receiving quality health care and increase mobility within the Canadian workforce to place qualified health professionals where they’re needed most.”
– The Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion
“Canadians deserve a health care system that delivers better health outcomes. That depends on a strong, stable and qualified health workforce to keep the system running. The projects funded today will help improve health care for Canadians by enhancing and aligning training for health care providers. Together with provinces and territories, we are advancing common health priorities by providing better support for health workers. We know that improved health worker supports lead to better health care for Canadians.”
–The Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Health
“Through this $28.8 million investment from the Government of Canada, centralizing provincial and territorial data on physicians who meet the Canadian standard for independent licensure will increase public confidence, enhance physician mobility, facilitate health sector resource planning, and make redeployment during a crisis easier. In the longer term, we also expect the National Registry of Physicians to improve access of patients to physicians in Canada.”
– Dr. Maureen Topps, Executive Director and CEO, Medical Council of Canada
“Most people living in Canada currently do not have access to comprehensive primary care. This reality, compounded by the health workforce shortage, makes team-based care a valuable model for the delivery of comprehensive primary care. By reimagining training for both current and future generations of primary care practitioners, we are launching a key component of broader primary care reform, bringing us closer to connecting everyone in Canada to interprofessional teams providing comprehensive continuing primary care.”
–Claudia Zuccato Ria, Executive Director of the Foundation for Advancing Family Medicine
“Medical laboratory technologists (MLTs) play a crucial role in Canada’s health care systems, which are experiencing a significant shortage of qualified health care professionals, including MLTs. The Canadian Alliance of Medical Laboratory Professionals Regulators is exploring ways to develop flexible pathways to registration and help address the shortage of MLTs by increasing the supply of qualified specialists within the MLT fields of practice.”
– Adam Chrobak, Vice-Chair of the Canadian Alliance of Medical Laboratory Professionals Regulators
First announced in Budget 2021, the Sectoral Workforce Solutions Program helps key sectors of the economy, like health care, to implement solutions that address current and emerging workforce needs. It does so by funding organizations to deliver sectoral projects that focus on a range of industry-driven activities, including: training and reskilling workers; helping employers retain and attract a skilled and diverse workforce; and other creative solutions to help sectors address labour market needs.
The health care sector continues to see high levels of job vacancies, with a total of 96,200 unfilled positions in health occupations in the fourth quarter of 2022.
About 78,700 physician job openings are expected over the 2022–31 period as ongoing challenges persist, including shortages in rural and remote areas, inefficient interprovincial labour mobility processes, the need to address demand and readiness for virtual care, and challenging pathways to licensure for international medical graduates. These openings are also coming from employment growth and the need to replace workers who will leave because of retirement, death and emigration.
On February 7, 2023, the Government of Canada announced its proposed investment of close to $200 billion over 10 years, including $46.2 billion in new funding to provinces and territories, to improve health care for Canadians. These investments, on top of already significant funding, will further help provide Canadians with a health care system that includes:
- access to high-quality family health services when they need them, including in rural and remote areas and for underserved communities;
- a resilient and supported health workforce that provides them high-quality, effective and safe health services;
- access to timely, equitable and quality mental health, substance use and addictions services to support their well-being; and
- access to their own electronic health information.
For media enquiries, please contact:
Office of the Honourable Carla Qualtrough
Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion
Senior Communications Advisor and Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos
Minister of Health
Media Relations Office
Employment and Social Development Canada
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