Manitoba’s doctor shortage: medical professionals say the situation is ‘very critical’

A recent report from Doctors Manitoba found the province needs more than 350 doctors to catch up with the rest of Canada and one Winnipeg pharmacist says the shortage is already being felt by many of his patients. @_MorganModjeski reports.

By Morgan Modjeski

A shortage of more than 350 doctors in Manitoba is putting pressure on physicians on the frontline.

Some medical professionals say the weight is not just isolated to doctors’ offices and emergency rooms.

“Every day one or two customers, they’re calling and looking for the physicians,” said pharmacist Viren Patel.

“It’s very critical in Manitoba.”

Patel says his patients are suffering as the province deals with a doctor shortage.

“Most of the doctors, they’re not staying here, they’re moving out of the province. And some of the customers, some of the patients, they cannot find a new doctor, because whatever doctors are here, they’re already booked,” he said.

“So they have to go just here and there, walk-in clinics, and emergency care. Lots of issues.”


Patel helps when he can, but like walk-in clinics, pharmacists operate under restrictions when it comes to how they’re able to help, which may result in patients getting less than thorough care. Access to certain narcotics and specialists may also be off the table.

“The problem is with a walk-in doctor or emergency care they are just taking care of your worry with your current situation, they are not your family doctor, so they don’t have the history of your medication or medical history,” said Patel.

Winnipeg pharmacist Viren Patel on Oct. 29, 2022. (Credit: CityNews/Morgan Modjeski)

Manitoba needs 359 physicians: report

The extent of the shortage was detailed in a recent report by Doctors Manitoba, which found the province would need 359 more physicians to meet the Canadian average when it comes to physicians per 100,000 people.

“Physicians in this province are experiencing high or very high levels of burnout and this is a record high. It’s a staggering number,” said Dr. Kristjan Thompson, the chair of Doctors Manitoba.

Thompson, who is also an ER physician, says doctors in the province need help, with 51 per cent reporting symptoms of burnout, resulting in many Manitobans going without a doctor.

“Right now, there are over 150,000 Manitobans who cannot find a family doctor and there are many more who cannot get in to see their primary-care physician in a reasonable amount of time,” he said.

Thompson says when those on the frontline call for help, the call goes unanswered.

“I’m here today to tell you that is unacceptable,” he said. “We cannot keep doing this dance. Something has to change. Things are critical right now.”

Government investment in health care

The Government of Manitoba has said in the past it’s working to address gaps within the health-care system.

The province recently announced a $12.5 million investment in an interdisciplinary health and community services simulation centre at Red River College Polytechnic. It’s aimed at training more nurses and health-care professionals for Manitoba.

Health Minister Audrey Gordon called the investment a “great day for Manitoba students and Manitoba’s health-care system.”

“This investment helps us to build for the future and provides quality training for students working towards careers in the health services,” said Gordon. “By helping these students to gain valuable skills and experience in a simulated, supportive learning environment, we are building our province’s health-human resource capacity.”

Opposition NDP Leader Wab Kinew says government is failing to take the action to fix the province’s health-hcare system, saying when medical professionals speak out, the government should listen.

“Things continue to get worse and that is very concerning,” said Kinew. “And as we look ahead to winter – just anecdotally – we look at what’s happening with friends and family, I think we should all be very concerned about our health-care system.”

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