Canada's health care workforce shows declining migration rates

Alberta and British Columbia remain principal destinations for health care workers on the move

OTTAWA, April 8 /CNW Telbec/ - From 2001 to 2006, Canada's health care providers were less likely to move from one province or territory to another, with migration rates decreasing to their lowest levels in two decades for some occupational groups. According to a new study released today by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), this decline was particularly apparent for physicians. For example, the study found that interprovincial migration rates for physicians declined by 33% between 1986 and 2005.

"Understanding how our health care workforce is moving across the country is important for health planners, as well as for Canadians who rely on their services," explains Carol Brulé, Manager, Health Human Resources, at CIHI. "More than one million Canadians work directly in health occupations, and many provinces and territories have implemented strategies to attract and retain these workers. While many factors can contribute to the movement of health providers, it is interesting to note they were more likely to stay in the same province or territory during the latest study period than in any other time in the last two decades."

The study, Internal Migration of Canada's Health Care Workforce: Summary Report-Update to 2006, illustrates the migration patterns of 25 health care occupational groups within the same province or territory (intraprovincial migration), from one province or territory to another (interprovincial migration) and to and from rural and urban areas of the country. The report provides an update to CIHI's 2007 report on internal migration by examining the movement of health care workers between the census years 2001 and 2006, in addition to previous migration periods (1986 to 1991, 1991 to 1996 and 1996 to 2001).

The study found that despite the declining migration rate, Canada's health care workforce was still more mobile than the general population between 2001 and 2006. The majority of movement was intraprovincial, with 14.2% of workers moving from one community to another within the same province or territory. In comparison, 3.2% of the health care workforce moved between provinces and territories from 2001 to 2006.

Alberta attracts the most health care workers on the move

Although the rate of interprovincial migration slowed down between 2001 and 2006, Alberta continued to be the prime destination for health care workers who moved between provinces, followed by British Columbia. There was also significant migration of health care workers between neighbouring provinces-for example, Ontario and Quebec, Alberta and Saskatchewan, and Nova Scotia and all other eastern provinces.

Aside from Alberta and British Columbia, the Yukon, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island also made net gains during the latest study period, while all other provinces experienced net losses to interprovincial migration.

Migration out of rural areas slows down, but not for physicians

CIHI's study also looked at the movement of health providers between urban and rural areas over the study period. In 2006, nearly 19% of the Canadian population lived in rural Canada, compared to a little more than 20% in 2001. Between 2001 and 2006, rural Canada experienced no net losses of health care providers due to migration, with the number of workers moving into rural areas from urban areas virtually the same as those moving out. However, rural Canada continued to experience a net loss in the number of physicians due to urban migration, while dentists and pharmacists were more likely to move from cities to rural areas during this period.

CIHI's study also found that when health care workers who began practising in urban settings in highly urbanized provinces - especially Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia - chose to relocate, they were very likely to move to another urban area in the same province. On the other hand, health care workers who originated in rural areas in more rural provinces were more likely to relocate to another rural area, either within the same province or in a different one.

About CIHI

The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) collects and analyzes information on health and health care in Canada and makes it publicly available. Canada's federal, provincial and territorial governments created CIHI as a not-for-profit, independent organization dedicated to forging a common approach to Canadian health information. CIHI's goal: to provide timely, accurate and comparable information. CIHI's data and reports inform health policies, support the effective delivery of health services and raise awareness among Canadians of the factors that contribute to good health.

The report and the following figures are available from CIHI's website, at www.cihi.ca.

    
    Figure 1  Migrants as a Percentage of Total Population or Workforce
              (Based on Place of Residence Five Years Ago) for the Total
              Population, General Canadian Workforce and Selected Health Care
              Occupational Groups, Canada, 2006 (Figure 2 in the report)

    Figure 2  Percentages of the General Canadian Population and Physicians
              Who Were Interprovincial Migrants by One-Year Migration
              Periods, Canada, 1986-1987 to 2005-2006 (Figure 3 in the
              report)
    

SOURCE Canadian Institute for Health Information

For further information: For further information: Media contacts: Angela Baker, (416) 549-5402, Cell: (416) 459-6855, anbaker@cihi.ca; Tonya Johnson, (613) 694-6610, Cell: (613) 296-2580, tojohnson@cihi.ca


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