More medical school graduates in British Columbia were matched with residency placements in hospitals than in 2018, putting potentially more doctors into the provincial healthcare system.
Just six medical school graduates from the University of British Columbia (UBC) went unmatched this year, according to data released on April 10 by the Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS).
That’s up from the 14 UBC graduates who failed to be matched in 2018.
This year’s number is out of 347 residency seats that were filled by UBC. Medical schools and the ministries of health set the number of residency spots.
The matching process goes through two iterations, or rounds. In the first round, students rank their desired residency by discipline and location, and medical schools rank their own candidates for those spots. CaRMS organizes the matches.
Graduates who fail to match can apply for unfilled spots in a second round.
On a national level, this year marks a positive change in what had been a rising trend of graduates going unmatched.
This year 67 graduates failed to be matched, in 2018 it was 115 who weren’t matched, in 2017 the number was at 99, in 2016 it was 77 and in 2015 it was 64.
Residency placements, which can last from three to five years depending on the discipline are a necessary part of the process of becoming a medical doctor in Canada.
Failing to be matched takes a huge toll on medical students, who have invested many thousands of dollars and four years of their lives in medical school, with just much if not more time spent in undergraduate or masters studies.
“There’s the stress of not knowing if you’ll ever be matched,” Privia Randhawa, senior chair of the political advocacy committee of the UBC Medical Undergraduate Society told Lakes District News.
“There’s stigma within the medical community. It’s harder to get it the second time. It makes it very difficult. Sometimes they match the second year. Sometimes they don’t and they end up not using their MD.”
But the toll on B.C.’s healthcare system is worse, she said.
“Some people won’t be able to have a physician. [There are] 25,000 British Columbians who could’ve had a doctor.”
“Another effect is the stress on the system. Doctors are burnt out. There’s not enough people in the healthcare system…A resident provides a lot of care and help for the physician. It provides an extra set of hands to help within the system as well.”
Randhawa’s committee has spoken with ministers and MLAs in Victoria to convince them to do more to ensure graduates can be matched with residencies.
“B.C. has the second lowest medical graduate to residency ratio in the country. Ontario has the lowest,” she said.
Her organization has recommended that the B.C. government consider the structure used in Manitoba.
“In Manitoba they’ve created an assured residency program. After the second iteration, if they don’t succeed they’re guaranteed for the third. They will make sure you have a residency in their province.”
The higher number of residency matches this year doesn’t necessarily mean more medical residents will be sent to the Lakes District Hospital in Burns Lake.
For one thing, the problem of doctor shortages was addressed in 2017 when more doctors were brought to the area.
Residents could come to the Burns Lake hospital for their elective rural rotation but no residents have currently opted to do their rotation in Burns Lake, said Dr. Paul Winwood, Regional Associate Dean of the UBC Faculty of Medicine.
“As part of UBC’s provincial Family Practice Residency Program, residents complete a mandatory rural rotation in B.C. in their second year. Sites in the North include: Mackenzie, Smithers, Hazelton, Vanderhoof, Quesnel, Williams Lake or 100 Mile House. In addition, rural family practice residency programs based in Terrace and Fort St. John offer rotations in surrounding rural communities,” Winwood explained.
But in theory, more residency matchings could make Burns Lake a residency location.
“You would need to have all the things that are required for accreditation to do that. And you would need funding. You need family doctors that have the interest and ability to teach and train residents. And it would start with government needing to start it,” Winwood said.
“These communities change. For example, Mackenzie was in crisis a few years ago with a doctor shortage and there was no continuity of medical care then. Now it’s very stable. It’s a good model of medical care.”