Tracey Tong/metro ottawa


Canadian Medical Association promoter Vaughn MacDonald, right, checks out Gatineau resident Tammy Nelson at the Sparks Street Mall yesterday morning.

In one of the worst cities to find a family physician, the Canadian Medical Association yesterday sounded an alarm about the country’s doctor shortage.

The CMA’s "More Doctors. More Care." campaign took to Parliament Hill and Sparks Street yesterday, distributing hundreds of personal "health kits" containing hand sanitizer and bandages to raise awareness of the shortage. And while the problem is Canada-wide, Ottawa’s situation is particularly bad, said CMA president Dr. Brian Day.

"It’s one of the worst places to get a family doctor," said Day, a Vancouver-based orthopedic surgeon. "It’s a city with a fairly dense population and there are not enough doctors here."

With approximately 70,000 doctors in Canada, the country needs 26,000 more to match the average developed country, said Day, adding Canada is ranked 24th globally for the number of doctors per population compared to fourth worldwide in the 1970s.

There are five million Canadians — about one-sixth of the country’s population — who don’t have family doctors, resulting in backed-up emergency rooms across the country, Day said.

Aging doctors readying for retirement and the shortage of medical school spaces in Canada are part of the problem, said Day.

"There are 1,500 young Canadians going to medical schools in foreign countries because we don’t have enough spots for them in Canada," he said.

The issue personally touched many residents who came across the campaign yesterday.

"I know there’s a big demand for doctors," said Gatineau’s Tammy Nelson, noting a friend waited a week to get a broken collarbone fixed.

"You have to wait a long time to get a physical therapist or to get a doctor to pick you up," said Gloucester resident André Pepin. "It’s pretty bad."

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