News reports in the spring of this year highlighted the growing numbers of Canadian medical school graduates who were shut out of residency placements in Canadian hospitals.
In 2009 there were 11 graduates without a placement, this year there were 115, up from 99 the year before. When we add Canadians who have graduated from recognized medical schools in America, Ireland and Britain and who subsequently passed their Canadian medical exams, the number being shut out of residency placements is unprecedented.
All our Canadian medical students have at least 10 years of undergraduate education, huge student debts and in the case of Canadian-trained students used the resources and space of taxpayer-funded public universities.
It is sad and ironic that the skills of so many Canadian doctors-in-training are going to waste at a time when we have a critical shortage of family physicians.
Now we learn from Saudi Arabia’s hissy-fit leader, Mohammed bin Salman, that our hospitals have many Saudi state-sponsored medical residency candidates and students. Numbers have been hard to verify, but it appears approximately 800 Saudis were taking up spots in Canada’s teaching hospitals.
I suspect if the truth be known, Saudi is just one of many countries taking up spots and pushing Canadians, who want to attend medical schools or need a residency placement, aside.
In defence of public universities and hospitals, they have been receiving a smaller share of public financial support for the past 30 years. This trend has forced post-secondary institutions to make up a minimum of 30 per cent of their budgets through revenue generation.
In addition to tuition fees, there are two major sources of revenue, corporate sponsorship and international students. Corporate sponsorship often comes with a need to rationalize away a certain amount of academic independence, whereas international students generate cold hard cash.
It’s a reminder for us. When a government reduces deficits or income tax rates by cutting budgets to publically funded institutions, there could be unintended long-term consequential and negative outcomes.
The latest Saudi example is clearly an unintended negative consequence for many Canadians. Those with the marks and the passion to become doctors; doctors-in-training needing a residency placement; universities and training hospitals who need international students to balance their budgets, and communities and individuals that are desperate for a family doctor.