College of Family Physicians Halts Additional Training Year Amidst National Outcry

The College of Family Physicians of Canada is halting its plan to increase the time it takes to train a family doctor from two years to three, bowing to pressure from medical students, family doctors and provincial health ministers.

In a significant policy reversal, the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC) has announced the cessation of its proposed third year of family medicine residency training. This decision comes in the wake of widespread opposition from medical professionals nationwide. The plan, initially set to commence in 2027, faced intense scrutiny and backlash, leading to this recent development.

Dr. Michael Green, the newly elected president of CFPC, expressed the organization’s stance in a recent statement. “We have ceased the implementation of the third year in family medicine residency training and will undertake a comprehensive review of this decision,” he said, emphasizing the college’s commitment to working with its members, chapters, and partners to collaboratively address the evolving challenges in family medicine.

The decision to halt the additional year of training was overwhelmingly supported at the CFPC’s annual membership meeting on November 1, with more than 91 percent of the 2,775 voting physicians endorsing the motion. The motion, introduced by Dr. Paul Dhillon, a family physician from Sechelt, B.C., also called for more transparency and an independent review committee to provide further recommendations.

Dhillon lauded the decision, describing it as “a great first step.” He remains eager to review the documents leading to the initial decision, indicating a desire for greater transparency in the college’s decision-making process.

The CFPC had argued that the additional year of training would better prepare physicians for complex cases, including elder care, mental health, addictions, and Indigenous health. The college also saw this as a step toward modernizing education to equip doctors to work effectively in multi-disciplinary teams using new technologies.

Despite these intentions, the proposal faced significant opposition. Critics, including physicians, medical students, and residents, argued that the college needed to provide solid evidence that the extra year would lead to better patient outcomes and more sustainable practices. Concerns were also raised about the potential exacerbation of the existing shortage of family physicians in Canada, where one in five Canadians currently lacks a family doctor.

Provincial health ministers, who met in October in Charlottetown, were unanimously against extending the residency to three years, according to B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix.

Dr. Paul Dhillon’s motion calling on the College of Family Physicians of Canada to immediately cease plans to require a third year of training passed overwhelmingly at the annual members’ meeting on Nov. 1. Dhillon says he is happy the college is backing down on the change.

Yash Verma, a first-year medical student at the University of Toronto, expressed relief at the decision. Verma, part of the first cohort that would have been affected by the extended residency, highlighted the collective power of advocacy and lobbying efforts in influencing this outcome.

Looking ahead, the CFPC plans to organize town hall meetings and consult with provincial health ministers, the Canadian Medical Association, the Society of Rural Physicians, university programs, and other groups to gather feedback and address concerns.

Dr. Green, echoing the sentiments of many in the medical community, concluded with a forward-looking statement: “I think we all want, in the end, what’s right for Canadians, which is a strong primary health-care system as our foundation, with experienced and well-trained family doctors.”