Healthcare Worker Shortage – A Global Concern

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According to the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Strategy on Human Resources for Health: Workforce 2030 report, healthcare workforce shortages of up to 18 million are expected by 2030. This is predicted to be highest among upper middle-income countries, driven by economic growth, population growth and population aging. 

In 2019, the World Medical Association urged governments around the world to address the predicted global shortage of health professionals by presenting concrete plans for investing in the health workforce. This initiative no doubt was de-railed by the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic which took a devastating toll on an already existing global concern. 

Here in North America, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) predicts the United States could see an estimated shortage of between 37,800 and 124,000 physicians by 2034, including shortfalls in both primary and specialty care.

This issue is prevalent in Canada as well. Key contributing factors are similar to the global scale and include an aging physician and health workforce population as well as an aging patient demographic, which in turn typically requires more reliance on primary care. 

The global physician pool is comprised of at least 30 percent of doctors above the age 55. Factors such as semi-retirement and a new generation of primary care physicians who want a different daily structure have led to less than half of primary care physicians being available for after-hours care, which translates into more after hours care being provided in the hospital emergency rooms and longer wait times in walk-in clinics. 

How can we bridge this global shortage of healthcare workers?

While no one measure will be sufficient in addressing the issue of doctor shortages, certain key changes appear to be significant topics for addressing the needs of communities. These include the increased use of technology, innovative and updated healthcare systems, increased budgets and funding to allow for these measures, and more cohesive team based health care.

According to Global Health Workforce Labor Market Projections for 2030, global shortages projected for 2030 may not occur if labor productivity could be increased, for example, through better use of technology, improved skills development, and institutional reforms. 

This is promising, and we will continue the conversation on both a local and a global level. 

The team at Physicians for You is confident that our global healthcare community will continue to strive for excellence in healthcare.

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