About a decade ago, it seemed obvious that Canada was going to need a lot more orthopedic surgeons to replace more hips, knees and other joints, in part due to our aging population. To prepare to meet that need, the number of residency spots for the specialty was increased, so more surgeons could be trained. 

Unfortunately, it did not work out as planned. Around the same time, the 2008 recession marked the beginning of constrained health care budgets that continue to this day – and cuts to operating room time, money for new joints, nursing services and rehabilitation care all followed. In that environment, training more orthopedic surgeons backfired and turned into an employment crisis, says Peter MacDonald, president of the Canadian Orthopaedic Association. In 2013, the organization said they expected there to be no positions available for graduating residents the next year – while patients simultaneously faced years-long wait times for some procedures.

As the story of Canada’s orthopaedic surgeons reveals, the answer to long wait times isn’t as simple as just hiring more specialists. In this article – the third in our series on wait times to see specialists – we look at the health human resources issues around specialists, increasing access to operating rooms and hospital beds, and better use of primary care providers.Learn more...

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