Purpose: 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.
Methods: All licensed health care facilities potentially employing anesthetic services were identified. On February 1(st), 2002 a questionnaire was mailed to each institution. On April 1(st), a second mailing was sent to non-responders. Those facilities that did not respond to either mailing were contacted by telephone.
Results: 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 greater than five ORs or five 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.
Conclusion: 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.