Medical Students March For a Permanent Fix to Residency Shortages
Dozens of medical students from U of T and across the province gathered at Queen’s Park on April 25 to press political leaders for a long-term solution to the lack of residency spots for graduating medical students.
Although 92 per cent of U of T medical students matched to a residency position across the country this year, medical students face a chronic shortage of positions due to cutbacks. After intense lobbying this spring by U of T and other medical school leaders and students, the Ontario government recently agreed to provide $23 million to offer a residency spot to all 53 Ontario medical students who are currently unmatched to a residency position. Now, students and medical school leaders are looking for a permanent solution.
“We were very excited about the announcement but it’s important to note this is a one-time solution,” said Victoria Reedman, a march organizer and 2nd year medical student at U of T. “It will clear the backlog for this year but it doesn’t solve the problem long-term.”
To become a practicing physician in Canada, medical school graduates must complete a residency program. At the end of their fourth year of “undergraduate” medical training, graduating students apply to a postgraduate residency program, such as family medicine, psychiatry or surgery. But due to cuts in residency spots, particularly in Ontario, the number of unmatched students has grown in recent years.
To fix the problem, students want the government to create more residency spots, but also to leave room in the budget to offer flexible spots each year for those students who might not match, said Kayla Sliskovic, president of U of T’s student-run Medical Society. And many are calling for an overhaul to the Canada-wide matching system, which they call outdated.
Students were relieved to learn about the temporary fix earlier this month, Sliskovic said, but “the worry, the concern, the stress is still there.”
Representatives of all three major Ontario political parties spoke at the student’s rally, and organizers read statements from non-matching students. Professor Patricia Houston, U of T’s Vice Dean of the MD Program, thanked the Ontario government for its quick action to fix this year’s shortage, and told the students, “I’m right there behind you!
“You deserve to have a residency spot,” she said to the marchers. “The number of unmatched medical students has tripled in the last three years. This is a system problem, it can’t be your problem. We have to find a solution and that is why we’re here today. I know that if we all work together collaboratively and creatively we will find a way forward.”