Covid Fallout – Navigating the Post-Pandemic Medical Maze

Written By: Jay Mistry

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the vulnerabilities in Canada’s healthcare system, revealing issues within medical education, healthcare access disparities, and the interplay between health and social factors. This essay underscores the urgent need for comprehensive reform to create a more equitable and resilient healthcare system. Collaborative action is essential to address these challenges and build a system that meets the diverse needs of Canadians, emphasizing equity, community engagement, and preventive care.


The COVID-19 pandemic has served as a stark revelation, puncturing the facade of resilience within numerous industries and systems. While its impact on the medical industry is readily apparent, its ripple effects have laid bare the structural weaknesses pervading every layer of the system. From the arduous journey of becoming a doctor to the unequal distribution of healthcare professionals across regions, to the perennial struggle for adequate funding in hospitals.


Issues within the Medical School System

The Canadian healthcare system is facing a pressing challenge: a growing demand for doctors amidst a limited capacity to produce and retain them. At the heart of this issue lies the bottleneck within medical education and residency training, a situation that has far-reaching implications for both aspiring physicians and the patients they serve. One of the primary barriers to entry into the medical profession is the stringent selection process for medical schools. With only 20% of annual applicants gaining acceptance, a vast majority of aspiring doctors are left out of the system before they even begin their journey (Ellis 2023). This high rejection rate not only leads to frustration and disillusionment among students but also perpetuates a cycle of scarcity in the physician workforce.

Provinces hold the reins when it comes to determining the number of spots available in medical schools and residency programs. However, reluctance to increase these spots in tandem creates a critical mismatch between the supply of medical graduates and available residency positions. As a result, many medical school graduates find themselves in limbo, unable to progress to the next stage of their training and ultimately unable to practice medicine independently.


Furthermore, the competitive nature of securing a residency spot adds another layer of complexity to the problem. Canadian Medical Association Journal research indicates that students must apply to an average of 18 to 19 residency positions (Ellis 2023), often resorting to extensive extracurricular activities and travel to enhance their competitiveness. Despite these efforts, some graduates still find themselves without a residency position, even after investing nearly a decade of their lives in medical education. The issue of unfilled residency positions compounds the problem. While there is a general shortage of doctors, certain specialties and regions are particularly underserved. Family medicine positions, for example, frequently go unfilled, especially in rural areas and provinces like Quebec. This dearth of primary care providers not only limits access to healthcare for vulnerable populations but also exacerbates existing disparities in healthcare delivery.


Stress and Strain Post-COVID

The COVID-19 pandemic has acted as a powerful magnifying glass, revealing deep-rooted structural issues within Canada’s healthcare system that have been festering for decades. It has not only brought these problems to the forefront but also exacerbated them, resulting in profound consequences for the nation’s health and well-being.

One of the most profound revelations of the pandemic has been the glaring disparities in health outcomes among different demographic groups. Marginalized communities have faced disproportionate rates of infection, hospitalization, and death. These disparities are not coincidental but are reflective of systemic racial and socioeconomic inequities that have long persisted in Canadian society. Factors such as inadequate access to healthcare services, overcrowded living conditions, and barriers to employment and education have contributed to the heightened vulnerability of these communities to the ravages of the pandemic.

Moreover, the pandemic has exposed the fragmented nature of Canada’s healthcare system, characterized by a complex web of federal, provincial, and territorial responsibilities that often result in disjointed policies and inconsistent service delivery. The lack of a unified, nationwide strategy for pandemic response has led to confusion, inefficiencies, and inequities in the distribution of resources and allocation of healthcare services. This has been particularly evident in the differential impact of the pandemic on different regions of the country, with some areas experiencing overwhelmed healthcare systems while others remained relatively unscathed.

Within the realm of long-term care, the pandemic has laid bare the systemic failures that have left some of the most vulnerable members of society exposed to grave risks. Older adults residing in long-term care facilities have borne the brunt of the pandemic, with alarmingly high rates of infection and mortality. Inadequate staffing levels, substandard living conditions, and a lack of regulatory oversight have all contributed to the devastation wrought by COVID-19 in these settings. The tragedy unfolding in long-term care homes across the country has underscored broader societal attitudes toward aging and the devaluation of elderly populations, highlighting the urgent need for systemic reform.

Furthermore, the pandemic has underscored the intricate links between health and social determinants, revealing systemic barriers that prevent individuals from accessing timely and appropriate care. Issues such as ambulance offload delays and overcrowded emergency departments are not merely isolated incidents but are symptomatic of deeper structural issues, including population aging, income inequality, and inadequate investment in community-based healthcare services. The pandemic has laid bare the inadequacies of a healthcare system that prioritizes acute care over preventive and community-based services, perpetuating a cycle of illness and inequity.

Considering these revelations, there is an urgent need for comprehensive and systemic reform of Canada’s healthcare system. This entails not only addressing the immediate gaps in the pandemic response but also confronting the underlying structural inequities that perpetuate health disparities. Meaningful engagement with communities, particularly those most affected by systemic injustices, is paramount in shaping a more equitable and resilient healthcare system. By centring the needs and experiences of marginalized populations, Canada has an opportunity to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic with a healthcare system that is truly responsive to the diverse needs of all Canadians.


The COVID-19 pandemic has not only exposed the vulnerabilities of Canada’s healthcare system but has also amplified longstanding issues that have plagued the medical industry for years. From the challenges within the medical school system to the disparities in health outcomes among marginalized communities, the pandemic has acted as a catalyst for change, laying bare the urgent need for comprehensive reform.

The issues highlighted in this discussion, including the bottleneck in medical education, the unequal distribution of healthcare professionals, and the systemic barriers to accessing care, require immediate attention and concerted efforts at both the systemic and societal levels. Addressing these challenges will necessitate collaborative action among government agencies, healthcare institutions, medical professionals, and community stakeholders.

Moreover, the pandemic has underscored the interconnectedness of health and social determinants, emphasizing the need for a holistic approach to healthcare that addresses not only acute medical needs but also the underlying social, economic, and environmental factors that impact health outcomes.

As Canada navigates the post-pandemic landscape, it is imperative to seize this opportunity to reimagine and rebuild a healthcare system that is more equitable, resilient, and responsive to the needs of all Canadians. By centring equity, community engagement, and preventive care, Canada can emerge from the pandemic with a healthcare system that is better equipped to address the diverse and evolving health needs of its population.




Ellis, Maeve. 2023. The Varsity . April 1.

Rabeneck, Linda. 2023. “” Facets.


1 Comment on "Covid Fallout – Navigating the Post-Pandemic Medical Maze"

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