Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

A demand-based assessment of the Canadian anesthesia workforce — 2002 through 2007

Évaluation des effectifs canadiens en anesthésie fondée sur la demande — de 2002 à 2007



The number of anesthesia providers required by the Canadian health care system remains controversial. Questions persist regarding both the adequacy of the current supply and what the future demand will be. The purpose of this study was to quantify the number and adequacy of anesthesia providers in 2002, and predict the same for the year 2007.


All licensed health care facilities potentially employing anesthetic services were identified. On February 1st, 2002 a questionnaire was mailed to each institution. On April 1st, a second mailing was sent to non-responders. Those facilities that did not respond to either mailing were contacted by telephone.


Responses were obtained from 831 of 891 (93%) health care facilities. Four hundred and twenty-six of the facilities employed anesthetic services. There were 1,610 operating rooms (ORs) in use daily and 2,134 full-time equivalent (FTE) anesthesia providers were available to the institutions surveyed. Respondents identified an immediate need for 228 additional FTEs. Hospitals with less than five ORs or five FTEs reported higher vacancy rates than hospitals with greaterthan five ORs orfive FTEs (P < 0.0001). Ontario (n = 85) and Quebec (n = 69) had the largest absolute deficits of FTEs and significantly greater odds of vacancies than western provinces (Ontario OR = 1.84, Quebec OR = 2.50). The projected need for 2007 was an additional 560 FTEs.


This is the first study to survey a national census of “consumers” of anesthetic services: Canadian health care facilities. The results indicate substantial current and worsening future shortages of anesthesia providers in Canada.



Le nombre de prestateurs d’anesthésie réclamé par le système de soins de santé du Canada demeure controversé. Des questions subsistent sur le nombre suffisant des effectifs actuels et la demande dans l’avenir. Nous avons voulu quantifier le nombre et la capacité des prestateurs d’anesthésie en 2002 et prédire ces mêmes données pour 2007.


Tous les établissements de santé autorisés à offrir des services anesthésiques ont été recensés. Le premier février 2002, un questionnaire a été posté à chaque institution. Le premier avril, un second envoi a été fait aux non-répondants. Ceux qui n’ont répondu à aucun questionnaire ont été joints par téléphone.


Nous avons obtenu des réponses de 831 sur 891 (93%) établissements de santé. Des services d’anesthésie étaient offerts dans 426 centres. Il y avait 1 610 salles d’opération (SO) utilisées chaque jour et l’équivalent à temps plein (ETP) de 2 134 prestateurs d’anesthésie disponibles pour les institutions sondées. Les répondants ont déterminé un besoin immédiat de 228 ETP supplémentaires. Les hôpitaux de moins de cinq SO ou cinq ETP avaient des taux plus élevés d’inoccupation que les hôpitaux de plus de cinq SO ou cinq ETP (P < 0,0001). L’Ontario (n = 85) et le Québec (n = 69) avaient les déficits absolus les plus importants d’ETP et des risques d’inoccupation plus signifcativement élevés que les provinces de l’Ouest (Ontario SO = 1,84, Québec SO = 2,50). Les besoins projetés pour 2007 étaient l’ETP supplémentaire de 560.


C’est le premier recensement national des «consommateurs» de services d’anesthésie: les établissements de santé du Canada. Il indique des pénuries actuelles substantielles de prestateurs d’anesthésie au Canada qui vont s’aggraver dans l’avenir.


  1. 1

    Canadian Medical Forum Task Force Two: A Physician Resource Strategy for Canada. Physician Workforce in Canada: Literature Review and Gap Analysis. January 2003.

  2. 2

    Kirby M, Breton M. The Health of Canadians — The Federal Role — Final Report. The Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science, and Technology. October 2002.

  3. 3

    Canadian Medical Association. Ipsos-Reid. National Report Card 2001 Report, updated September 2001.

  4. 4

    Blendon RJ, Schoen C, DesRoches C, Osborn R, Zapert K. Common concerns amid diverse systems: health care experiences in five countries. Health Aff (Millwood) 2003; 22: 106–21.

  5. 5

    The Canadian health care system: views and experiences of adults with health problems. The Commonwealth Fund 2002 international health policy survey. May 2003.

  6. 6

    Barer ML, Stoddart GL. Toward integrated medical resource policies for Canada: 1. Background, process and perceived problems. CMAJ 1992; 146: 347–51.

  7. 7

    Donen N, King F, Reid D, Blackstock D. Canadian anesthesia physician resources: 1996 and beyond. Can J Anesth 1999; 46: 962–9.

  8. 8

    The Royal Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. Memoranda to Deans of Medicine, Associate Deans, Postgraduate Medical Education, Provincial Registrars. Subject: Foreign Medical Degrees and Foreign Training. October 17, 1996 and December 9, 1996. Ottawa, 1996.

  9. 9

    Roos NP, Bradley JE, Fransoo R, Shanahan M. How many physicians does Canada need to care for our aging population. CMAJ 1998; 158: 1275–84.

  10. 10

    Seal R, Reid D. Submission to the Romanow Commission from CAS/ACUDA. October 31, 2001.

  11. 11

    Ryten E. A physician workforce planning model for the specialty of anesthesia: theoretical and practical considerations. Association of Canadian University Departments of Anesthesia. Available from URL: — last accessed October 24, 2003.

  12. 12

    Byrick RJ, Craig D, Carli F. A physician workforce planning model applied to Canadian anesthesiology: assessment of needs. Can J Anesth 2002; 49: 663–70.

  13. 13

    Craig D, Byrick R, Carli F. A physician workforce planning model applied to Canadian anesthesiology: planning the future supply of anesthesiologists. Can J Anesth 2002; 49: 671–7.

  14. 14

    Tang H, Byrick R, Donen N. Analysis of anesthesia physician resources: projected Ontario deficit in 2005. Can J Anesth 2000; 47: 179–84.

  15. 15

    Statistics Canada. CANSIM II, table 051-0004. Last modified June 27, 2003.

  16. 16

    Ghazar N, Morewood GH, Engen D, Ashbury T, Van Den Kerkhof EG, Wang L. Gender differences in the Canadian anesthesia workforce. Can J Anesth 2003; 50: A109 (abstract).

  17. 17

    Society of Rural Physicians of Canada Group. Joint position paper on training for rural family physicians in anesthesia. November, 2001.

  18. 18

    Chan BT. Canadian institute for health information report. From perceived surplus to perceived shortage: what happened to Canada’s physician workforce in the 1990’s? June 2002.

  19. 19

    Audit Commission. Anesthesia under examination. The efficiency and effectiveness of anaesthesia and pain relief services in England and Wales. London: Audit Commision, 1997.

  20. 20

    Romanow RJ. Commission on the future of health care in Canada. Building on values. The future of health care in Canada. Final report, November 28, 2002.

  21. 21

    Hawaleshka D. Cut the wait times, Macleans, October 27, 2003.

  22. 22

    Orwen P. Surgery crisis looming. Toronto Sunday Star. December 1, 2002.

  23. 23

    Haley L. Vancouver ORs forced to close due to shortage of physicians. The Medical Post. November 19, 2002; vol 38: iss 42.

  24. 24

    McKendry R. Physicians for Ontario — Too Many? Too Few? For 2000 and Beyond. Report of the fact finder on physician resources in Ontario. December 1999.

  25. 25

    The Association of Canadian Medical Colleges. Strategic planning for a sustainable system of health care in Canada. Brief to the Commission on the future of health care in Canada. October 31, 2001.

  26. 26

    Wharry S, Sullivan P. CMA calls for “more hands on deck.” CMA Interface 2003; vol 4: no 10.

Download references

Author information

Correspondence to Gordon H. Morewood.

Additional information

Support: Material and financial support for this project was provided solely by the Department of Anesthesiology at Queen’s University.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Engen, D.A., Morewood, G.H., Ghazar, N.J. et al. A demand-based assessment of the Canadian anesthesia workforce — 2002 through 2007. Can J Anesth 52, 18 (2005).

Download citation


  • Nous Avons
  • Vacancy Rate
  • Direct Patient Care
  • Anesthesia Provider
  • Canadian Health Care System