The College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC) says it has heard concerns from doctors across the country who opposed plans for a third year of training, originally scheduled to begin in 2027.
“We have suspended implementation of the third year of family medicine residency training and will undertake a thorough review of this decision,” newly elected CFPC President Dr. Michael Green wrote in a statement.
He said the university would collaborate with its members, chapters and partners “to together address current and future challenges in family medicine.”
Read the message @DrMichaelGreen1President of the CFPC, which addresses the decision to cease the third year of residency and details the Board’s Response to the AMM. https://t.co/AjsrWhnSGJ pic.twitter.com /Lb97cdbdze
More than 91 percent of the 2,775 physicians registered to vote at the CFPC’s annual membership meeting on Nov. 1 approved a motion to “immediately cease implementation of the third year in the family medicine program,” establish an independent review committee to present recommendations and then decide what to do, based on the evidence.
Paul Dhillon, a family doctor from Sechelt, BC, introduced the motion, with three others calling for more transparency. He called the decision “a great first step.”
“I look forward to seeing when and if they release the documents that led to this decision,” he said.
The university has said a mandatory third year of training, starting in 2027, would prepare doctors to treat more complex cases, including aged care, mental health and addictions and Indigenous health. An updated and “modernized” education would also help them work in multidisciplinary teams with new technologies.
“If we look to the future 10 or 15 years from now, what will be the new skills that family doctors will need?” Green said in an interview on Nov. 2, the day after the vote.
“I think in the end we all want what is right for Canadians, which is a strong primary health care system as a foundation, with experienced, well-trained family physicians.”
Becoming a family doctor in Canada is a 10-year process: four years of university education, four years of medical school, and two years of specialized training in family medicine. Family physicians already have the option of adding a third year to focus training on a specific area of practice, and all physicians undertake continuing education throughout their careers.
At a time when one in five Canadians does not have a family doctor, there are concerns that an extra year of training will make the shortage even worse.
Doctors, medical students and residents have spoken out against the mandatory third year of training, saying the university must provide evidence that it would provide better outcomes for patients and make their practices more sustainable.
Provincial health ministers also “unanimous” at their October meeting in Charlottetown that the residency should remain in place for two years, British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix told reporters after the meeting.
Yash Verma, a first-year medical student at the University of Toronto, said he and many of his classmates are happy with the decision to suspend the third year. Theirs is the first cohort that would have been affected by longer residency.
“This really demonstrates the power we have as a group to collectively implement change,” he said of advocacy and lobbying efforts.
“I am optimistic about the future of family medicine.”
The college will host public meetings and meet with provincial health ministers, the Canadian Medical Association, the Society of Rural Physicians, university programs and other groups to hear their concerns, Green said.