Ontario Minister of Health, Deb Matthews, is reported to have stated that physicians in Ontario make on average $385,000, with specialists making upwards of twice that amount.
A look at the CIHI report National Physician Database 2009-2010 Data Release seems to suggest otherwise. “Canadian physicians received an average of 288,549 (gross) in fee-for-service payments in 2009-2010. For family physicians, average gross payments were $238,764, compared to $340,916 for specialists. This average is based on physicians who received at least $60,000 a year in such payments.” In Ontario, that number is $237,330 for family docs, $371,758 for specialties, definitely not the best in Canada.
The above article goes on to say that the recently released Drummond report stated that “Ontario’s Doctors are the best paid in the country”, though when pressed for the data source, Drummond directed the reporter to the Ministry of Health. Acknowledging the difficulties of using CIHI data tables to report average physician compensation (due to alternate level payments), the Ministry of Health pointed to a recent ICES report showing that “Ontario was well ahead of other provinces in terms of physician compensation”, though a quick search shows no evidence for this and that the mythological $385,000 is not present in the document. And then the kicker:
Rick Glazier, a senior scientist at ICES who studies physician compensation, confirmed Science-ish‘s suspicions. “We don’t have this data and I am not aware of a data source.” He went on: “It’s actually shocking that we don’t know. This is an enormous public expense running into many billions of dollars and the fact that it’s not accounted for and can’t be compared across jurisdictions is pretty telling that no one is minding the store. Shouldn’t we as tax payers know where the dollars are being spent?”
Oh dear. A gentle reminder to politicians: Don’t go quoting a large number to bolster your “case” when you don’t know where that number came from. It is frustrating for those who care about data when politicians haphazardly quote numbers and statistics without reference. Albeit, the $385,000 is probably a number that Ms. Matthews had to come up with on the spot. Understandable. But the next time you quote a number, try quoting from a more reliable source than your best guess. Or just state that that is your best guess. Please.