Rural Canadians face greater disparities from lack of anesthesia care, doctors say

Calls for national strategy as one B.C. practitioner says lack of anesthesiologists is ‘provincewide problem’

Camille Bains · The Canadian Press · Posted: Jul 30, 2020 

Some pregnant B.C. women must travel hundreds of kilometres for maternity services, says Dr. Beverley Orser, chair of the department of anesthesiology and pain medicine at the University of Toronto’s faculty of medicine.(David Donnelly/CBC)


[Excerpts] Canadians living in rural or remote communities are at risk of poorer health outcomes due to a shortage of anesthesia services, say researchers calling for a national strategy to address inequitable access to care.

Dr. Beverley Orser, chair of the department of anesthesiology and pain medicine at the University of Toronto’s faculty of medicine, said pregnant women in some areas must travel hundreds of kilometres for maternity services.

An ongoing shortage of anesthesiologists seems be worsening across the country as evidenced by job ads going unanswered, an aging workforce and discussions among those chairing anesthesia departments at Canada’s 17 medical schools, said Orser, who is also an anesthesiologist at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, which has the largest trauma facility in Canada.

Family practice anesthesiologists often work in smaller communities and are general practitioners with extra training to provide anesthesia for low-risk procedures. They’re also a cheaper option.

Canada could learn from Australia, where a national curriculum for family practice anesthesiologists has been developed, along with ongoing mentorship of doctors in rural areas, she said.

“They, for example, are building a program where people who work in these communities can come back to the bigger centres for two weeks in a funded position, which is really an important model because it’s tough working in these environments,” Orser said.

In Canada, support from anesthesiologists for their rural colleagues is limited, Orser said. For example, while specialists from Alberta and Saskatchewan fly to their colleagues in Yellowknife, a national program with a well integrated network is needed, she added.

However, the heavy workload of a family practice anesthesiologist often means some don’t stay long in rural areas, Orser said.

To read the full article, click on https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/lack-of-anesthesiologists-a-province-wide-problem-says-b-c-medical-practicioner-1.5669005