Canadian Doctors Burnout

Published January 1, 2003

The Canadian Medical Association says a new study shows an alarming number of Canadian doctors are so exhausted, cynical, and stressed out that they suffer from advanced stages of burnout.

Canadian Dr. Dana Hanson says a major source of frustration is watching the collapse of the Canadian single-payer health care system. Hanson said doctors are at the front lines of health care 24 hours a day, seven days a week trying to make up for deficiencies in a system that lacks the ability to deliver timely care to Canadian citizens. Even though an average of 500 doctors a year leave Canada to practice medicine in a free market, many stay … and most suffer.

Karen Palmer, public health reporter for the Toronto Star, writes the survey shows doctors are “frustrated by an inflexible, bureaucratic health system that has heaped more patients with more complex problems on fewer physicians.”

Many doctors quietly endure the failings of the single-payer system. This frustration, says Michael Kaufmann, medical director of the Physician Health Program in Toronto, leads to depression, alcoholism, drug abuse, and marital problems.

Maybe we in the U.S. need to rethink our flirtation with nationalized health care. The collective well-being of any health care system is tied directly to the health of physicians. Interactions with patients are vital and personal and require the best attitude and mental health of the doctor.

IT’S YOUR HEALTH is written by Conrad Meier, senior fellow in health policy at The Heartland Institute. This program is produced as a public service by Radio America. Meier passed away unexpectedly on March 18, 2005.