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Martin Odber

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Can the shortage of doctors be solved using an adaptation of the third law of supply and demand?

The third law of supply and demand states "If demand remains unchanged and supply increases, a surplus occurs, leading to a lower equilibrium price."
( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supply_and_demand )

If we increased the rate of new doctors entering medicine (using mechanisms such as but not limited to; subsidizing doctors education, further compartmentalizing aspects of health care etc ) until we reached a surplus state then would waiting times and the cost of healthcare go down accordingly?

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  • Sep 25 2013: Good question. Do realise that there are other underlying factors to consider: ask if 1) doctors would be willing to get lesser pay after putting in so much towards their course of education; 2) whether the medical boards and health ministry would approve training of more doctors? (If so, how many) 3) what chance is there all those trained will remain within that nation given possible economic brain drain. and Lastly, consider impact of available impact of accessible healthcare systems across borders and in touring destinations like Thailand etc.
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      Sep 26 2013: Superb points Kent.

      1. Doctors are not infallible mythological gods with omnipotent powers. They are (in most cases)intelligent highly trained human beings performing a function. The laws of supply and demand impact on their logic just as surely as it does that of the rest of civilization. At the moment, their field is largely exempt from laissez faire forces however if that were NOT the case, I feel confident that very few doctors would decide to trade in their white coats for a job in a retail store.

      2. As to would medical boards and the health ministry approve training of more doctors that would depend on if the government deregulated that area now wouldn't it? If government were to remove or adjust the caps then the rest of the system would follow. So this question is really does society want the government to do this enough to pressure their representatives to make it so. As to how many that is likely a question for another discussion as many related questions would need be answered and factors should be taken into account before a wise choice could be made.

      3. Brain drain. This is a very valid concern. Even so I feel the answer seems obvious. Doctors motivated to leave Canada, and there are/will be are ambassadors of our country, culture and tolerance spreading goodwill and good health in the world where-ever they land. Can we keep enough doctors to make it worthwhile? Absolutely. Canada is one of the best places to live in the entire world. Not everyone is willing to live in an electrictyless dusty village for "a few dollars more." We have one of the most stable governments, economies, and are an incredibly safe place to live, not to mention one of the cleanest environments. That is something worth coming home to. Further incentives could be created as conditions of serving in Canada such as but not limited to vastly enhanced educational funding for those with the intellect and drive to become doctors. Money is not the only motivator for doctors I feel.
      • Sep 26 2013: Yes, hence after understanding the above, consider this:

        Assuming the medical board agrees to train 5000 new doctors in the new year, the decision would see an increase in the supply of doctors within the industry in 7 years. If the projected supply meets with currently increasing demand, the wage levels of doctors will remain the same. If it is above anticipated demand and medical faculties available, it'll trigger issues given there may not be enough work spaces for 5000 doctors then resulting in unemployment or if the increased supply reduce wages of doctors leading to some brain drain. Both of which can become economic burden to the nation.

        We assume that the level of wages will decrease with the increase in supply... However, in the real world, there can be resistance to this. Factoring in other factors I highlighted earlier and it can be quite complex.. the cost to hospitals will make it harder to hire all the trained doctors if they refuse a lower wage. The building of new hospitals to allocate the new work spaces also incur costs. That is a big cost to any government. Do consider this.
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          Sep 29 2013: Kent you are absolutely right. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

          Yourself and many of our contributors all agree that having more doctors is not enough to resolve the issue of efficient timely care. Instead the common consensus seems to be that if we really want to improve cost and efficiency we need to examine EVERY link in the chain for ways to improve it and decrease costs across the board.

          Do we really need doctors for all the functions they currently perform?
          Precisely which services can lower paid staff perform?
          Would it be possible to relegate doctors to a supervisory position?
          Would introducing highly advanced diagnostic equipment be able to perform many or most of doctors most common diagnostic responsibilities?
          Which surgeries could be managed by technical staff and machines and which could not?
          Can triage be handled more effectively.

          In my mind Kent, our discussions do not lead so much to answers, as to a great deal more questions.

          How can we attain the most widespread efficient round the clock medical service at a fraction of todays cost?

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