Ontario facing growing dermatologist shortage

An ongoing struggle to access dermatologists in Ontario. Afua Baah has the details on how skincare specialists are coping with the overflow of patients in the province.

By Afua Baah

Ontario appears to be dealing with an ongoing shortage of dermatologists. Dr. Renita Ahluwalia is the lead dermatologist at the Canadian Dermatology Centre in North York. She sympathizes with patients who have had to wait for months on end and travel for several hours outside their community to see a dermatologist.

“I’ve been a dermatologist in the city now for over 10 years and the problem just keeps getting worse and worse,” said Dr. Ahluwalia. “I’ve had colleagues who have patients that are waiting for a year or longer or colleagues who have had to close their waiting list because they simply can’t accommodate the patients that are on those lists.”

Dr. Ahluwalia points to several factors as to why there are not enough specialists available.

“The costs of doing medical dermatology are very, very high and there’s simply not enough dermatologists in the province or the country.”

CityNews reached out to the Ontario Ministry of Health. While they did not provide specific numbers on how many dermatologists are practicing across the province, they did say “2024 CaRM matching data shows all of Ontario’s medical residency spots were filled, including dermatology, and we will continue to grow our physician workforce now and for years to come.”

Previous data from the ministry shows the number of dermatologists in the province increased by 5.5 per cent between 2018 and 2021, from 238 to 251.

In 2021, there were roughly 14 million residents in Ontario. To put those numbers into perspective, that would have been one dermatologist for every 55,000 residents in the province.

“What’s really hard to see is when someone has a chronic condition that just keeps getting worse and worse and they haven’t been able to get the help they need,” said Dr. Ahluwalia.

Dr. Ahluwalia is calling on the province to do more so that serious illnesses don’t continue to fall through the cracks.

“The government doesn’t support private, dermatology clinics in any way and in order to have more staff to have more triaging systems, to be able to see more patients efficiently, we need support.”

The problem isn’t just isolated to Ontario. Dr. Ahluwalia believes most of the dermatologists practising in the country are actually located in the GTA. She is also calling for the province to create more spots in residency programs for people who want to be dermatologists in order to alleviate this growing gap.

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