Ontario should offer incentives to reverse psychiatrist shortage

A new report urges the Ontario government to offer incentives to psychiatrists in order to make up for a shortage it says is contributing to a growing mental health crisis across the province and the country.

The report, released Wednesday by the Coalition of Ontario Psychiatrists, says the province should also increase the number of psychiatry residency spots available to medical students and increase exposure to the field in medical school to six weeks.

The organization, which represents 1,900 Ontario psychiatrists, says boosting the ranks in psychiatry would help improve access to mental health at a time when demand continues to outpace supply, particularly in rural areas.

It says that while Canada as a whole is experiencing a shortage of psychiatrists, the situation in Ontario is ``uniquely difficult to manage and continues to persist and deepen'' despite a rise in psychiatrists' workload.

The report says the average number of patients each Ontario psychiatrist sees per year outside of a hospital setting has gone up to 249 in 2013 from 208 a decade earlier, and psychiatrists are working, on average, an additional eight hours a week compared with 2007.

The shortage is linked in the report to the large number of psychiatrists nearing retirement age, combined with a lack of a younger cohort to succeed them.