Ontario’s health minister Deb Matthews is moving into a major battle with the physicians in the process of trying to get health care costs under control as part of the provincial deficit fighting agenda. Deb Matthews has on a number of occasions remarked that Ontario’s physicians are the best paid in the country.
A simple comparison is to look at total provincial government physician expenditure and divide by population and compare per capita provincial government physician expenditure. This is done in the accompanying figure using CIHI data for three points in time -1975, 1990 and 2009 – and in 1997 dollars. By 2009, Ontario was spending the most per capita on physicians at 608 dollars followed by Alberta at 547 dollars and then Saskatchewan at 508 dollars. However, Ontario has always been one of the biggest per capita spenders on physicians – in 1975 it ranked 2nd highest after British Columbia while in 1990 it was ranked first.
In other words, in relative terms, nothing really has changed in terms of the amount being spent per capita on physicians in Ontario. Ontario’s physicians have been the “best paid” in the country for a long time. What has changed is that Ontario has finally realized it is no longer richer than it thinks. With per capita GDP now in the middle of the provincial pack, Ontario will be adjusting what it can afford in terms of public spending – which includes physicians.