The number of doctors — there are nearly 70,000 — and their salaries are both at all-time highs. More Canadians have a family doctor than in years past, proof that progress has been made. But access to them is among the worst in the world. How can that be?

Only half of Canadians are able to see their doctors the same day they become sick. Queues for specialists are especially worrisome, with 41 per cent of patients waiting two months or more, according to The Commonwealth Fund’s study of 11 countries.

Canadians shouldn’t fool themselves into thinking poor access is the inevitable consequence of a publicly funded health care system. Patients in the Netherlands and Germany have rapid access to specialists, much like Americans where private care prevails. Our system is simply not efficient.

New research shows that the average family physician in Canada billed the public purse $239,000, while the average specialist billed $341,000.

The privilege of being doctors who have a monopoly on providing medical care carries with it an ethical, social responsibility. That should include making patients the center of care.

Canadians have paid top dollar to buy change in the health care system. They have bought more doctors, but they haven’t yet got a more efficient system.

— The Globe and Mail, Toronto, Dec. 18

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