And though enrolment in medical school is growing, the percentage of applicants choosing psychiatry is declining, the report says.
“Governments are investing a significant amount of money into improving mental health services, which is great ... (but) there’s some issues with access to treatment at this point, and if we don’t have enough psychiatrists to see those patients, then we may have issues with access to treatment still,” said Dr. Mathieu Dufour, the coalition’s co-chair.
If the shortage is allowed to worsen, wait times for treatment will increase, he said. The gap is particularly high when it comes to child psychiatry, which has seen a “sharp increase” in demand, he said.
“More work needs to be done to promote psychiatry as a profession for medical students,” Dufour said.
Increasing pay for psychiatrists would also make the profession more appealing, he said, noting that some medical specialties earn up to four times more.
“The fact that psychiatry has been at the bottom of the list for medical specialties, I do think that it plays a role in terms of the fact that we have difficulties recruiting candidates,” he said.
The report says psychiatrists receive lower base pay than other medical specialties and are more likely to lose billable hours to patients who don’t show up.
“It is particularly important for incentives to be considered for improving recruitment to underserved areas, including rural and remote communities, and for subspecialties,” the report says.
“Creating incentives for psychiatrists to specialize, in order to serve the growing demand for child psychiatric services and the growing aging population, will help address the ongoing shortage of subspecialists.”
Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government has earmarked $1.9 billion over 10 years for mental health. The minister of health did not immediately respond to a request for comment.