Amid Nationwide Doctor Shortage, Canada Turns To DIY Pap Smears

Publicly funded healthcare system makes kits available for women and "individuals with a cervix"
EDMONTON, CANADA - AUGUST 26, 2023: Canadian PM Justin Trudeau addresses local Liberal Party supporters at a private fundraiser organized in the Edmonton Convention Center, on August 26, 2023, in Edmonton, Canada. PM Trudeau hosted an exclusive fundraiser in Edmonton, during which he highlighted national vision and unity. He brought his daughter Ella-Grace on stage, discussed challenges and unity, and praised Albertans while emphasizing the Liberal Party's commitment to inclusive economic growth amidst complex issues.
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Canada is asking people to do their own pap smears at home as the country copes with a nationwide doctor shortage.

This week, British Columbia launched Canada’s first “cervix self-screening program” and encouraged citizens to order pap smear test kits to test for cervical cancer at home.

Starting January 29, women or “individuals with a cervix” ages 25 to 69 can order a “quick, easy and highly accurate test kit” to test for cervical cancer at home, the province’s health ministry said in a news release on Tuesday.

“It’s not every day that a province can set an achievable goal of eliminating a deadly cancer, but today’s launch of the first at-home self-screening program means ending deadly cervical cancer in British Columbia is a now a very real possibility,” Premier David Eby said.

The announcement comes as Canada’s health care system suffers from a severe doctor shortage, especially in family medicine. More than six million Canadians do not have a family doctor — in some provinces as many as one in three people, surveys show.

Eby said this “more accurate, comfortable and convenient” way to test will encourage “vulnerable populations” like trans-identifying people to get screened.

Some Canadians, especially in populous areas like Toronto, have waited years to be assigned to a family doctor by their provincial governments.

“We have a full-blown health-care crisis on our hands,” said Dr. Mekalai Kumanan, president of the Ontario College of Family Physicians (OCFP), which represents 15,000 doctors in the area.

Critics blame government red tape, saying there are actually plenty of doctors in Canada, but they are unable to get licensed.

As many as 13,000 medical doctors in Canada are not practicing because they have not done the required two-year residency.

Critics also say province governments restrict the number of residency spots, and medical schools turn away doctors who were trained abroad rather than at a Canadian medical school.

About 90% of all residencies are reportedly reserved for Canadian medical graduates, and doctors trained abroad have to compete for the remainder. However, some of the residencies for Canadians do not even end up getting filled because Canadian doctors are not interested.

“The Canadian public should be entitled to the best qualified Canadian applicant,” Rosemary Pawliuk, president of the Society for Canadians Studying Medicine Abroad, said last year.


“Whether they’ve graduated from a Canadian school or an international school, whether they’re a Canadian by birth or if they’re an immigrant, they should be competing on individual merit,” she said.

At least one medical school has tried to help by running a family medicine program that shepherds medical students directly into residency spots.

To solve the crisis, Canada would need thousands more doctors to get licensed, but so far, the system has seen little change.

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