The precarious supply of physical therapists across Canada: exploring national trends in health human resources (1991 to 2005)

Hum Resour Health. 2007 Sep 25;5:23. doi: 10.1186/1478-4491-5-23.


Background: Health Human Resource (HHR) ratios are one measure of workforce supply, and are often expressed as a ratio in the number of health professionals to a sub-set of the population. In this study, we explore national trends in HHR among physical therapists (PTs) across Canada.

Methods: National population data were combined with provincial databases of registered physical therapists in order to estimate the HHR ratio in 2005, and to establish trends between 1991 and 2005.

Results: The national HHR ratio was 4.3 PTs per 10,000 population in 1991, which increased to 5.0 by 2000. In 2005, the HHR ratios varied widely across jurisdictions; however, we estimate that the national average dropped to 4.8 PTs per 10,000. Although the trend in HHR between 1991 and 2005 suggests positive growth of 11.6%, we have found negative growth of 4.0% in the latter 5-years of this study period.

Conclusion: Demand for rehabilitation services is projected to escalate in the next decade. Identifying benchmarks or targets regarding the optimal number of PTs, along with other health professionals working within inter professional teams, is necessary to establish a stable supply of health providers to meet the emerging rehabilitation and mobility needs of an aging and increasingly complex Canadian population.